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Full text of "Omni Magazine (January 1994)"

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NES FOR SALE NOW! 



BREAKTHROUGH 
SCIENCE: 
SEARCH FOR THE 
TOP QUARK 

PLEASE FREEZE ME! 



SPECIAL! 



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REVOLUT 
THE INSIDE 
STORY 




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JANUARY 1994 



EDITOR IN CHIEF & DESIGN DIRECTOR: BOB GUCCIONE 

PRESIDENT S C.O.O.: KATHY KEETON 

EDITOR: KEITH FERRELL 

EXECUTIVE VP/GRAPH.CS UHi:CiO^. FRANK DEVINO 

MANAGING tD ,: "OR CAROLINE DARK 

ART DIRECTOR: CATHRYN MEZZO 



DEPARTMENTS 






m 


FEATURES 


6 


31 


First Word 


„■. 


Continuum 


By Marlene Dobkin de Rios 


1. 


38 


8 


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The Last Great 


Communications 


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Experiment 


13 




of the 20th Century 


Electronic Universe 


H ^H , jft :{ 


By Dick Teresi 


By Gregg Keizer 


BV, .^■■HhH^ 


Will the missing link in 


14 


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the Big Bang 


Travel 


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theory soon be found? 


By Kalia Doner 


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Scientists search 


Beasts in the Everglades 


flH - ' If^H Hj 


for the rare top quark, 


18 


Kf 


48 


Earth 


^^^^■■■Z^H Hf 


Random Access, Remote 


By Anthony Liversidge 


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Control: The 


30 


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Evolution of Storytelling 

By Walter Parkes 


Omni Treasure Hunt 


Afcor/ ^ 


Preview Page 


RmlitM 


Is it a game or is it a story? 


33 


'iWv 


The writer of 


Wheels 


^■J' 


WarGames muses over 


By Paul C. Schuytema 


f ~ 


the emerging 


Satellites monitor truckers 




interactive medium. 


34 












56 


Style 




Please Freeze Me 


By Michael Krantz 


"IP^SIh r St v.- 


By Charles Piatt 


Sex pheromones hit the 




The winner of the Omni 


market 


&a,«<J1 




Immortality 


36 




Contest is announced— 


Artificial Intelligence 


V< ',—", J 




and is offered 


By Steve Nadis 






a chance at future life. 


Sight into sound 






63 


38 






Fiction: 


Kid Stuff 


Jf^ 




A Man On Crutches 


By Gregg Keizer 
39 


-3^ 




By Paul Park 
73 


Omni Online 




Interview 


By Keith Ferrell 


he quest for the top quark could shift us toward a new 


By Paul Bagne 


104 


perceptual landscape. Will today's technology, 


Breeding robots 


Games 


s Jean-Francois Podevin's illustration suggests, lend new 


79 


By Scot Morris 


sight to classic theory? (Arl credits, page 101) 


Antimatter 



OMNI (ISSN 0149-8 

TCP.: Send address 
right © 1993 by On 
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opies $3.50 in U.S., AFO, and Canada. Telephone: 
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Canadian GST Registration #R126607589 



FIRST WJORD 



DRUG TOURISM IN THE AMAZON: 

Why Westerners are desperate to -find the vanishing primitive 

By Marlene Dobkin de Rios 



■These so-called 

shamans 

recognize ftie 

tourists' 

thirst lor the 

exotic," 

says de flios, 

grotessor of 

anthropology at 

California 

State University, 



J^% number of upscale, well- 
Mj^^L to-do, prominent Ameri- 
m % cans and Europeans 
are touring Amazonian cities. In- 
terested neither in parrots nor pi- 
ranhas, they revel in special all- 
night religious ceremonies, presid- 
ed over by a powerful shaman, 
drinking a foul-smelling brew — a 
woody vine called ayahuasca. Un- 
like the jungle denizens who for 
the last several thousand years 
have drunk the potion to see the 
vine's mother spirit — a boa con- 
strictor — in order to protect them- 
selves from enemies, to divine the 
future, or heal their emotional and 
physical disorders, the urban tour- 
ist is on a never-ending search 
for self-actualization and growth. 
In this postmodern period,' 
where people no longer produce 
their own rood, where the family 
has broken down, where there is 
a significant absence of commu- 
nity tradition and shared mean- 
ings, individuals are racked with 
feelings of low self-esteem and 
confusion about values. They are 
compelled to fill the emptiness 
with the experience of receiving 
something from the world. Why 
not a mystical experience with di- 
vinity? From travels, they bring 
home outrageous stories of their 
journeys, of the fabulous witch 
doctor encountered, of the vom- 
iting and diarrhea, of the fast- 
moving kaleidoscopic visions, of 
the sounds and the smells of the 
jungle— Wow! What a trip. 

Unscrupulous practitioners 
who exploit the tourists abound, 
and they are conscious of the 
farce they perpetrate. In Amazoni- 
an cities, middle-class men be- 
come instant traditional healers 
without undergoing an apprentice- 
ship period, without any teachers, 
and without any control. They 
give tourists mixtures of 12 or 
more different psychedelic 
plants to help them mystically be- 
come embedded in the universe. 




Many are witchcraft plants that af- 
fect neurotransmitters, decrease 
certain brain chemicals, and- 
even make it impossible to read 
or write for an entire year. These 
so-called shamans fight among 
themselves, and all have their 
champions abroad who function 
as travel agents and tour 
guides. A few make money, se- 
duce women, and obtain person- 
al power and control over others. 
Agents abroad often earn -as 
much as S8.000 to 510,000 from 
a three-week trip. 

Drug tourism is like internation- 
al mass tourism, where millions of 
temporary travelers from industri- 
alized nations seek in the margins 
of the Third World a figment of 
their imagination, a fantasy of 
Western consciousness— the ex- 
otic, erotic primitive or happy sav- 
age. The drug dilettantism has a 
special rhetoric, and travel litera- 
ture includes terms like "ad- 
vanced shamanic training." Expen- 
sive brochures, in color-separat- 
ed glory costing thousands of 
dollars, tout spiritual-transforma- 
tion techniques of jungle sha- 
mans. The Amazon is the last re- 
maining sanctuary on Earth, and 
by paying the cost of the trip, one 
becomes an impeccable warrior. 

The phenomenon has become 



so flagrant since the mid 1980s 
that native peoples are in danger 
of extinction as New Age maga- 
zines invite readers to fake guid- 
ed tours to remote villages or sa- 
cred places of power. This is a 
deadly, contemporary weapon to 
hasten the demise of native cul- 
tures, as international drug en- 
forcement treats this type of tour- 
ism as one more illegal activity 
and persecutes native peoples in- 
volved with tourists-. ' 

These" tourists see exotic peo- 
ple of color, untouched by civili- 
zation, close to nature. They will 
not see the civilizing influences in 
these areas of Catholic and Prot- 
estant missionary activity. Little 
do they know that the Amazoni- 
an city dweller gets better TV re- 
ception than I do in Southern Cal- 
ifornia because of the major tele- 
communications satellites on the 
outskirts of their cities. 

There is little hope for dialogue 
between the drug tourists and the 
Amazonians whose traditions of 
ayahuasca use are linked in a ma- 
trix dealing with the moral order, 
with good and evil, with animals 
and humans, and with health and 
illness. This has little to do with 
the experiences and needs of peo- 
ple in industrial societies. 

There is an evil, exploitive as- 
pect of this ecotouristic enter- 
prise. These "native healers" are 
common drug dealers, dressed 
for deception. They provide the ex- 
otic setting and prep the tourist 
to have an "authentic personal ex- 
perience." The drug tourism often 
leaves psychotic depression and 
confusion in its wake. 

Modernization and cultural 
change over the last century 
have destroyed the material 
base of many Amazonian tradition- 
al cultures. Must we now allow 
this final spiritual denudalion? 
Must the fifteenth-century Con- 
quest still continue? Only the boa 
knows. . . . DQ 



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connnnuruicATiDrus 

READERS' WRITES: 

Learning to see church windows, a sudden awakening, 

and turning back toward the stars 



Synthetic Sainthood 

Thanks for a rare unhysterical look at 
drugs and consciousness in your fif- 
teenth anniversary issue [October 
1993], I was one of the divinity students 
involved in Dr. Pahnke's Good Friday 
Experiment mentioned in the "Short His- 
tory of Consciousness" sidebar. Unfor- 
tunately, if the age of scientific study of 
hallucinogens and their role in religious 
ecstasy began there, it also ended 
there — in this country at feast. A 25- 
year follow-up of that double-blind ex- 
periment was done a few years ago. In- 
terestingly, almost all of us who got the 
psilocybin are still in the ministry. Most 
of those who got the placebo are not. 
Would I participate in a project like that 
again? Without a moment's hesitation. 
Rev, Mike Young 
Tampa, FL 

Separate Corners 

"Finding God" in the October 1993 is- 
sue attempted to define consciousness 
through the effects of hallucinogenic 
drugs on the brain. This approach 
begs the basic question about the na- 
ture of the entity — consciousness — 
that resides in the brain but is quite ob- 
viously on a different order of reality 
than the brain itself, or even of the 
neurochemical events that mark its phys- 
ical operation. Science must take note 
of the anecdotal evidence which has 
long been produced by investigators of 
psychic activities but which has been 
virtually buried under an indifference 
based on refusal to admit the validity 
of nonmaterialistic phenomena. 

John E. Harry 
Cambridge, MN 

Discontinuum 

Anthony Liversidge's article, "Bacterial 
Consciousness," [Mind, October 1993] 
is limited in the notion that conscious- 
ness can be plotted on a kind of spec- 
trum that ranges from microbial on one 
end to human on the other. Perhaps con- 
sciousness is not like that; perhaps it 
is an ail-or-nothing event. Sensation, 
memory, recall/creation is an ongoing 
process in numans often without aware- 



ness. Consciousness, then, must be dif- 
ferent from mere neuroprocess. 

Anthony Giannini, President 

Cognitive Sciences International 

Chelsea, Ml 

Space for Rent 

Your comment about the condition of NA- 
SA is timely [Space, October 1993], I 
think I understand why it's happening. 
The people who achieved wonders at 
NASA during the 1960s went to work 
there to put man in space. Whatever nut- 
ty politics occurred inside the organi- 
zation, that was the focus of attention. 
Unfortunately, when NASA became a 
big-budget agency with lots of good- 
paying jobs, it became a place where 
people went to have careers, They had 
talent and intense ambition, but few 
brought any enthusiasm for space ex- 
ploration. Those people are in charge 
now. Describing the problem is easy. I 
don't know what to do about it. 

Robert Jahn 
Indianapolis, IN 

Instant Omni 

You are to be commended for your on- 
line efforts . . . delivery of information 
when desired is the wave of the future. 
No more waiting for that magazine in 
the mail slot! 

Steven Farmer 
Savannah, GADa 

Correction: We inadvertently printed the 
wrong Hebrew letter in our October 
1993 Games column on the number 15. 
We showed the Hebrew letters yod and 
heth, reading right to left; we should 
have printed he rather than heth. 

Got something to say but no time to 
write? Call (900) 285-5483. Your 
comments will be recorded and may 
appear in an upcoming issue 
Omni. The cost for the call is 95 
cents per minute. You must be age 
18 or older. Touch-tone phones on- 
ly. Sponsored by Pure Entertain- 
ment, P.O. Box 166, Hollywood, 
California 90078. 



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to set ticket prices, even what dinosaurs 
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While building a DinoPark empire, 
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solving skills without even noticing. It's 1 
no wonder DinoPark Tycoon comes from 
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company for kids. New DinoPark Tycoon, I 
from the makers of i 
The Oregon Trail? 



ELECTRONIC 
UNIVERSE 



ALL THE NEWS THAT'S FIT TO DOWNLOAD: 
Newspapers from coast to coast take the online plunge 

By Gregg Keizer 



When you're 

tired of following 

the actions of 

the city planners 

in the online 

papers, you can 

turn to Maxis' 

SlmCltg mo lots 

taste of oower, 

calling the shuts on 

zoning, taxes, 

schools, and more 

in your own 

concrete jungle. 



If the last thing you think of 
when you think of online enter- 
tainment is your newspaper, 
you're out of touch. Newspapers 
might not be as much fun as vid- 
eogames, but they are planning 
on going electronic. Several ma- 
jor papers, in fact, already 
cruise what passes for today's dig- 
ital highway; others are planning 
to join them, and all are trying to 
figure out what constitutes a news- 
paper when there's no paper. 

One of the best electronic pa- 
pers is the Mercury Center, sci- 
on of the San Jose Mercury 
News, a daily known for its top- 
notch technology reporting. You'll 
find the Mercury Cen- 
ter on America On- 
line (AOL), a fast- 
growing electronic 
service that sports a 
graphical interface 
on either the Macin- 
tosh or IBM PC. To en- 
ter an area — Mercu- 
ry Center, for in- 
stance—you simply 
click on an icon or 
you can pull down a 
menu before typing 
a keyword. 

AOL's electronic 
papers— Chicago On- 
line, a digital version 
of the Chicago Tribune, also 
lurks there — share some traits 
with their inked forerunners. You 
can retrieve the international, 
national, and local news, check 
the latest scores on the sports 
"page," or take a walk through a 
limited number of classified ads. 
Movie reviews, concert and play 
schedules, and restaurant listings 
are also available, just as they are 
in the hardcopy editions. 

Other elements of electronic pa- 
pers go beyond the black-and- 
white-and-read-all-over versions. 
Both Mercury Center and Chica- 
go On line- offer two-way commu- 
nication between readers and the 



papers' staffs, or simply between 
readers, via chat sessions and on- 
line bulletin boards where messag- 
es can be posted. And you can 
delve into the back issues of ei- 
ther paper by searching its elec- 
tronic library, an excellent re- 
source when you're following a 
complex and long-running story. 
Because these papers ride the 
information wave with America On- 
line, they're included as part of 
AOL's $9.95 basic monthly 
price. If you live in their vicinity, 
such papers are an excellent add- 
on to the newsprint you read in 
the morning. If you live else- 
where, they're still good sources 




tronic competitor for anything but 
the New York Times' puzzles. 

Calvin and Hobbes haven't 
turned up in digital form yet, but 
in the meantime, you can wile 
away a few hours with something 
like PC Comix's Lance Stone — 
Lifeforce, Lifeforce, Who's Got 
the Lifeforce? Essentially a dou- 
ble-issue continuation of the first 
Lance Stone computer comic 
book for the IBM PC, Lifeforce 
may be more graphic novel than 
newspaper comic strip, but its 
sometimes-animated images, 
sound effects, and interactive 
links — which let you switch char- 
acters and points of view — make 
up for its all-at-once 
gi'^vfi rather than daily- 
™ dose approach. 



:her= 



may 



for national and international 
news, sports, and entertainment. 
But they don't have comics, 
and they don't have crosswords. 
Fortunately, you can plug in 
these gaps yourself until the pa- 
pers wise up. Sierra's Take-A- 
Break! Crosswords; Volume 1 
and Volume 2, available for both 
Windows and the Macintosh, is 
one of the best puzzle programs. 
Using nearly 750 puzzles from 
Dell Magazines — publisher of 
those digest-sized crossword 
books you see in the supermar- 
ket—and featuring multiple levels 
of difficulty and an online diction- 
ary, Crosswords is a worthy elec- 



come a time when 
you sicken of just 

reading the news of 
city council and de- 
sire to make some 
yourself. Maxis' Sim 
City 2000, an update 
to the classic metrop- 
olis maker and city 
simulator, lets you do 
just that; A new three- 
dimensional perspec- 
tive is the most obvi- 
ous-change in SimCi- 
ty 2000, although it adds some 
finer touches, such as schools, 
prisons, subways, and water 
pipe, to the venerable plot of 
founding and then maintaining a 
city of your choice. As mayor and 
city planner, you lay out residen- 
tial and commercial zones, raise 
and lower taxes, and in the end, 
fight for your phony-baloney job. 
Someday, maybe electronic 
newspapers will include all that's 
now missing — comics, cross- 
words, photos, the connection to 
City Hall, Someday, maybe we 
won't have to search through the 
shrubbery to find the morning pa- 
per. Ain't the future grand? DQ 



TRAVEL 

GLADE TIDINGS: 

Exploring Florida's beautiful wetlands 

By Kalia Doner 



J ^% t first glance, the Ever- 
WM^k glades of South Florida 
m m appear to be an emp- 
ty expanse of boggy, brown 
marshes carpeted with rough- 
edged sawgrass, dotted by 
dreary clumps of gnarled trees. 

Look again. 

The 13,000-square-mile water- 
shed (six times the size of the 



Participants 

on Ted Levin and 

John Douglas's 

Everglades Nature 

and Photo 

Tours discover the 

richness and 



lands ecology, 
from exotic birds 
like the spoon- 
bill to the more 




alligators and the 

knotty tangle 

ol cypress groves, 

gaining a new 

appreciation lor 

this soggy, 

swampy world. 




state of Delaware) encloses a fe- 
cund metropolis of plant and an- 
imal habitats that are found no- 
where else in the world. But few 
visitors ever see the elusive pan- 
thers, rare snail kites, or the bow- 
ers of vivid orchids that thrive in 
this unique clime. 

"Most people enter the park at 
Homestead and drive south to Fla- 
mingo along a road that's been 
called thirty-seven miles of noth- 



ing," says naturalist and nature- 
writer Ted Levin, who with nature- 
photographer John Douglas 
runs Everglades Nature and Pho- 
to Tours. "No wonder they think 
the park is boring. 

"But every year offers up a dif- 
ferent mix of plants and animals, 
depending on how wet or dry it's 
been. You just have to know 
where to look. The challenge is 
finding the unexpected." 

For 17 years, Levin has met 
that challenge, leading small 
groups of the urban brave into 
alligator-infested cypress domes 
and mysterious hardwood ham- 
mocks, revealing the secret lives 
of the park's animals and plants. 

The Levin-Douglas tour first 
pitches camp in Collier Seminole, 
a 4,760-acre Everglades pre- 
serve northwest of the national 
park. From there they explore 
the rarely visited Fakahatchee 
Strand, a 20,000-acre cypress 
swamp, crisscrossed with old log- 
ging trails from the 1940s. Wad- 
ing knee deep through the crystal- 
clear streams that cross the 
trails, Levin and Douglas spy on 
the great blue herons and great 
egrets that gather at the water's 
edge and hope for a sighting of 
the rare Florida panther (there are 
only about 50 remaining). 

"We go on alligator-stalking 
night trips, calling the beasts 
with a squeaking noise," says 
Douglas. "You haven't been 
thrilled until you've watched the 
glare of their red eyes caught in 
the'-beam of the flashlight as 
they emerge from the water." 

At dawn, it's a short drive from 
base camp to the virgin cypress 
groves of Corkscrew Swamp Sanc- 
tuary. Owned and maintained by 
the National Audubon Society, it 
protects the 700-year-old trees 
and the endangered wood stork. 
"Two years ago, there was a 
flock of a thousand pairs of 
them," says Levin. 



The tour enters Everglades Na- 
tional Park at Shark Valley. 
There, small islands called bay 
heads are home to sweet-bay 
magnolia, red maples, Carolina wil- 
lows, and swarms of butterflies — 
next to plants, the most visible trop- 
ical life form in the park. 

"Sadly, almost every part of the 
park has been damaged by ur- 
ban pollution and the shortsight- 
edness of man," says Levin, who 
first fell in love with .the area as a 
youth when his family vacationed 
in Miami. "The Everglades start in 
the suburbs of Orlando. The wa- 
ter comes from there all the way 
down to Florida Bay through a sys- 
tem of lakes, marshes, and rivers, 
but much of it has been rechan- 
neled or blocked off by increas- 
ing development." 

The repercussions are dramat- 
ic. Plummeting water levels kill off 
plants and fish. In 1900, there 
were estimated to be 2.5 million 
wading birds in the Everglades; 
by 1941, 1.5 million remained; to- 
day only 250,000 pass through 
the park, and primary nesting hab- 
itats that were crowded just 40 
years ago no longer harbor rook- 
eries at all. 

But for all the ecostupidity 
that has plagued South Florida, 
there is still an abundance of nat- 
ural wonders to be seen: On the 
last evening of the 1993 tour, as 
Levin and his group watched a 
flock of white ibises fly from Eco 
Pond to the open waters, 50 
moon flowers opened up around 
them to greet the night. 

"Our goal is to transform peo- 
ple's conception of the Ever- 
glades," says Levin, "By the 
time they leave, they care about 
what happens to the plants and 
animals that live there." 

For more information on Ever- 
glades Nature and Photo Tours, 
write Ted Levin, Bloodbrook 
Road, RR 1, Box 313A, Fairlee, 
Vermont 05045. DQ 



EARTH 



CLEAN UP THE WORLD: 

Exporting a successful Australian environmental effort 

By Anthony Liversidge 



Vivid scenes ol 

pollution 

such as this 

Inspired 

Ian Kiernan to 

mount a 

Clean Up Sydney 

Harbor Day, 

which eventually 

grew into 

last September's 

Clean Up the 

World weekend 

extravaganza. 



Ian Kiernan of Sydney, Austral- 
ia, is an activist in board chair- 
man's clothing. His elegant blaz- 
er, neat moustache, and affable 
manner are badges of his suc- 
cess in business, but now he is 
leading what has become the big- 
gest grass-roots movement ever 
to clean up the planet, 

First celebrated in Australia as 
a yachtsman, Kiernan represent- 
ed his country in the BOC Chal- 
lenge, a solo around-the-world 
yacht race, in 1987, placing 
sixth. The special pleasure of surf- 
ing mountainous seas in a small 
yacht is a feeling of being at one 
with the ocean, he says. The 
sense of harmony is so sweet 
that when he sleeps at sea, he 
dreams in Technicolor. So the sor- 
ry sight of the Sargasso Sea lit- 
tered with plastic seemed a per- 
sonal violation, not least since the 
BOC Challenge competitors had 




agreed before the start to keep 
their plastic garbage on board in- 
stead of tossing it overboard as 
is traditionally done. 

That experience alone might 
not have changed Kiernan's life, 
but when he started finding bro- 
ken glass on the Sydney beach- 
es where he swam, he knew some- 
thing had to be done. So he 
teamed up with a long-time 
friend, public-relations consultant 
Kim McKay, and mounted a 
Clean Up Sydney Harbor Day. 
The event was a startling suc- 
cess. Forty thousand Sydney cit- 
izens picked up a small mountain 
of trash. "We expected to collect 
a hundred tonnes," Kiernan re- 
calls, "and we got five thousand!" 

Elated, the pair expanded to - 
Clean Up Australia Days, the 
first one of which took place on 
January 18, 1990. Last March, 
400,000 Australians gathered 
25,500 tonnes at more than 5,000 
waterways, parklands, and road- 
sides across the continent. "We 
got a hundred and fifty-eight 
cars and two buses out of lllawar- 
ra Lake alone." 

Raising the stakes to a global 
level, Kiernan and McKay next 
aimed to make September 17- 
19, 1993, a weekend the world 
would remember, and they suc- 
ceeded in grand style. More 
than 7,000 communities in 79 
countries around the globe took 
part in the three-day cleanup 
extravaganza, scouring parks, 
beaches, roadsides and city 
streets, picking them clean of eve- 
rything from candy wrappers to au- 
to hulks. In Cotabata City in the 
Philippines, 23,000 school chil- 
dren hauled in piles of recyclable 
plastic trash, while volunteers in 
Mexico City collected 20 tonnes 
of old tires, mattresses, applianc- 
es, and other junked items. In Tai- 
wan, 1 ,000 derelict cars were re- 
covered, and the weekend effort 
was so popular that it's been ex- 



tended for a whole month. 
McKay and Kiernan estimate 
that as many as 30 million peo- 
ple participated in this first 
Clean Up the World effort. 

Kiernan folded his Sydney con- 
struction company to devote him- 
self to circling the globe seeking 
the funds needed to carry it off. 
The U.N. Environmental Pro- 
gramme (UNEP) has helped with 
one of its largest grants ever — 
$100,000— and American Ex- 
press (Australia), Qantas Airways, 
the EGBAR Foundation, and IBM 
(Australia) contributed funds and 
other support. Lester Brown, presi- 
dent of the World Watch Institute, 
and John Denver were patrons. 

Kiernan was particularly elated 
at the enthusiasm shown for the 
program in developing nations — 
Clean Up the World turned up 
ecologically minded citizens in 
the likes of Costa Rica, Malaysia, 
Nepal, and Burkina Faso. "Two- 
thirds of the world's people will be 
in the cities of those countries," 
he explains, "and they all have 
the same waste-disposal prob- 
lems we have." 

Despite a lower sponsor turn- 
out than they'd hoped for, Kier- 
nan expects the success of the 
first Clean Up the World weekend 
to knock other corporations and 
foundations out of their "wait and 
see" stance and have them scram- 
bling to board the bandwagon for 
1994. Such pussyfooting around 
makes him impatient. In sailing, 
he says, the word is that "when 
the flag drops, the bullshit 
stops," and as far as he is con- 
cerned, the flag dropped long 
ago on the world litter crisis. One 
thing he has in hand already, how- 
ever, is a good working slogan: 
The muck stops here. DO 

For information on the 1994 
event, contact Clean Up the 
World, 123 Harris Street, Pyrmont, 
Sydney, NSW 2009, Australia. 



UUHEELS 

HI-TECH RIGS: 

Invading a loner's refuge? 

By Paul C. Schuytema 



While some 

fleets will soon 

use mobile 

printers and other 

onboard devices 

for Instant 

service, Monson 

is considering 

adding pagers lo 

the system 

so drivers will 

know when 

their trucks are 

receiving 

any messages. 



High in the star-flecked 
ether, satellites now re- 
ceive and transmit data 
which is used to assure us that a 
truckload of ketchup makes it to 
our store on time. The next time 
you're out on the open road, 
take a look at the tractor-trailers 
as they scream by. Chances are, 
under that fiberglass air dam, you 
may see a flying-saucer-shaped 
gadget mounted on tripod legs. 
That saucer holds a small satel- 
lite transceiver, able to beam in- 
formation up and out of the strat- 
osphere while the driver keeps 
both eyes on the road as he tries 
to find a country-music station. 

BasGd in Monmouth, Illinois, 
Munson Transportation was one 
of the first trucking fleets to enter 
into the next century of commu- 
nication. Now, every one oi their 
900-plus rigs is fitted with an ad- 
vanced satellite communications 
system. Inside the cab, the driv- 
er is accompanied by a keyboard 
console (positioned on the pas- 
senger side so the driver can't 
type while driving) which is con- 
nected to a communications unit. 
Every hour on the hour, day or 
night, this mobile system sends 
out its silent clarion call. That trans- 
mission is picked up by a satel- 
lite transponder in high Earth or- 





bit and then sent back to the pri- 
mary station in San Diego, Cali- 
fornia. From there, the information 
is processed by a computer ma- 
trix and is sent, via a dedicated 
fiber-optic phone line, back to the 
Munson computers in Monmouth. 
All of that in around ten seconds. 

Using the information sent by 
the two satellite transponders and 
a calculation known as triangula- 
tion, the computers at.Munson 
can determine nearly the exact po- 
sition of the truck (within a thou- 
sand feet), djsplay it graphically 
on a high-detail map, and know 
what interstate the truck is thun- 
dering down and when it will roll 
into south Cleveland. 

The sate 1 1 its- based communi- 
cations system, manufactured by 
QUALCOMM, also has the capa- 
bilities to send information about 
the driver's and vehicle's perform- 
ance such as speed and engine 
RPM, engine diagnostics, and crit- 
ical operating parameters like the 
current temperature of the refrig- 
eration trailer. 

The most interactive of the com- 
puter's functions is to serve as a 
two-way communication system 
between the driver and the fleet 
manager. If there is a change in 
routing, the fleet manager can 
send a message to the driver. If 
the driver gets a flat or runs into 



icy road conditions, he can send 
for help and estimate his down- 
time. When a driver nears the 
drop-off point, he can access a 
database to receive directions to 
the warehouse. 

The driver's primary device is 
equipped with a full-sized key- 
board and a four-line liquid-crys- 
tal display. A driver can type in 
the text of a message or invoke 
a macro, which wilt bring up any 
one of a number of "stock" mes- 
sages ih which he or she merely 
fills in the blanks. When the driv- 
er receives a message (they get 
an average of three to four mes- 
sages a day), a chime sounds 
and an LED flashes as the sys- 
tem stores the message for con- 
venient retrieval. 

Truck driving is a solitary op- 
eration, hours alone on the road 
to think and gaze at the dotted yel- 
low lines converging at the hori- 
zon. So how do the -drivers fee! 
about the system? Around Mun- 
son, it's been nicknamed "Big 
Brother," for obvious reasons. Af- 
ter talking with several drivers, 
though, the reaction is not that 
negative. The system took some 
time to get used to, but on the 
whole, the drivers really appreci- 
ate the invasion of technology, 

One driver explained that be- 
fore the system was adopted, he 
had to call in every morning to the 
office, which meant waiting for a 
phone at the truck stop. And 
since Munson is a sizable opera- 
tion, with every driver calling in eve- 
ry morning, it meant spending a 
lot of time on hold, often nearly an 
hour, just to check in. Some driv- 
ers don't like the system because 
they have to drive on course and 
on speed and must stop for 
eight hours after every ten hours 
of driving. Whether drivers consid- 
er the system a benefit or an in- 
vasion apparently doesn't matter: 
The satellite management of truck- 
ing fleets is here to s!ay. DO 



TWO SCENTS' WORTH: 

A new fragrance company takes advantage of pheromones 

By Michael Krantz 



A^oman I used to know 
iked to claim that all 
human relationships 
were based on smell. She may 
have been right; recent years 
have seen the rise of aromachol- 
ogy, the study of how odors in- 
fluence our behavior, with appli- 
cations in fields as diverse as med- 
icine, psychology, corporate-of- 
fice design . . . 



Dabbed 
with one of 

Emx's 
gender-speeific 



more Gomfonanle, 




. . . and cosmetics. In Septem- 
ber 1993, the Erox Corporation, 
founded in 1989 by Dr. David Ber- 
liner, began offering REALM Men 
and REALM Women, the first per- 
fumes containing synthesized hu- 
man pheromones. 

In the 1950s, Berliner, an M.D., 
was an anatomy professor at the 
University of Utah. His work in- 
volved isolating human-skin com- 
pounds, some of which, when 
left in the open, seemed to make 
lab workers more relaxed and so- 
ciable. He ran a few experiments 
and found correlations with the be- 
havior he'd first observed. 

At the time, there was no sci- 
entific context for Berliner's dis- 
covery. But in the decades that 
followed, biologists identified nat- 
urally produced airborne substanc- 



es dubbed pheromones in all man- 
ner of species, from insects and 
bacteria on up through amphibi- 
ans and almost all mammals, 
save humans. And in 1971, re- 
searchers determined that the vo- 
meronasal organ (VNO), a tiny 
cone-shaped tube found in the tis- 
sue of the nasal passages of 
most mammals, functioned as a 
pheromone receptor in humans. 

So, after several decades 
spent in the business world, Ber- 
liner returned in 1989 to his old 
skin substances, which he'd left 
frozen for 30 years, Were these 
pheromones? And was there a 
receptor specific to them? 

University of Utah neurophysi- 
ologist Luis Monti-Bloch did a 
series of tests showing VNO- 
responded to Berliner's skin sub- 
stances but not to common odor- 
ants. The system works somewhat 
like the sense of smell, except the 
nerve impulses triggered on the 
VNO by pheromones travel spe- 
cifically to the hypothalamus, the 
part of the brain that controls 
such autonomic bodily functions 
as the fight-or-flight response, hun- 
ger, and the sex drive. 

Thus was a new consumer 
product born. Erox president Pi- 
erre de Champfleury, formerly 
president of Yves Saint Laurent 
Parfums in Paris, developed the 
REALM fragrances around the 
pheromone core. 

The behavioral effects of pher- 
omones become hazier with 
each step up the Darwinian lad- 
der."- Dab female moth phero- 
mones on a piece of cardboard 
and your average male moth will 
do his darnedest to mate with the 
cardboard. Pheromonal effects in 
humans, however, are much 
more complex and even today 
are only dimly understood. 

Still, pheromones clearly do 
something, and this is the selling 
point of Erox fragrances. "A sym- 
phony without any violins," says 



Erox biologist and patent attorney 
Dr. David Dolberg, "would 
sound different even if it played 
the same piece." The Erox fra- 
grances may smell pretty much 
like their cousins, but apparently 
they deliver more bang, as it 
were, for the buck: Men wearing 
REALM Men, says Dolberg, re- 
port their experience as "one of 
sociability and comfort." Women 




dabbing on REALM Women en- 
joy increased confidence, friendli- 
ness, and well-being. 

The most pressing question, of 
course, regards the sex drive. 
Will pheromone perfumes spark 
unreserved lust in the opposite 
sex? Probably not. "We have not 
identified a specifically aphrodis- 
iac effect," Dolberg notes care- 
fully. "Pheromones appeal to our 
sensuality, not our sexuality." The 
effect on the wearer — and those 
In his or her vicinity — will be, 
says Dolberg, "one of romance, 
of the imagination. . . . 

"But that," he adds, "is getting 
a little poetic." DO 

For more information, or to order 
REALM Men or REALM Women, 
call (800) 692-9191. 



ARTIFICIAL 
irUTELLISEflJCE 



THE SOUND OF DATA: 

Data may fill your ears rather than your eyes- 

By Steve Nadis 



theory initially 

sparked 

musician and 

designer 

Gregory Kramer's 

interest In 

using sound to 

represent 

complex patterns 

of data. 



In the late 1980s, while reading 
about chaos theory for the 
first time, Gregory Kramer had 
an idea that would change his 
life. He was pondering a problem 
relating to cognition: How could 
humans possibly comprehend 
complex, multidimensional sys- 
tems with data pouring in from 
many separate tracks? The eyes 
can only assimilate so much in- 
formation. Then the answer 
came to him: Why not convert da- 
ta into a soundtrack that trained 
"observers" could listen to rath- 
er than watch? 

Kramer possesses the right 
qualifications for turning data in- 
to sound. He taught at New York 
University's music department 
and is a National Endowment of 
the Arts Composition Fellow. He 
also designs equipment for play- 
ing and recording electronic mu- 
sic. In 1989, armed with this ex- 
perience and his idea, he visited 
the Santa Fe Institute— a nonprof- 
it think tank devoted to the study 
oi complex systems— and met 
mathematicians and physicists 
working in the field of chaos. In- 
trigued by Kramer's proposals, 
the institute invited him to be- 
come a member and work with its 
researchers on tools to help peo- 



ple comprehend complex data. 

Kramer subsequently learned 
that he wasn't the first person to 
hit upon the notion of making sci- 
entific data audible, or "sonifica- 
tion." First discussed in technical 
literature in 1952, the idea has 
popped up, sporadically, ever 
since. In the past few years, an 
active group has formed at the Na- 
tional Center for Supercomputing 
Applications (NCSA) at the Uni- 
versity of Illinois. "If you work in 
the field of computer music, rep- 
resenting data with sound is a pret- 
ty obvious idea," explains Illinois 
composer Robin Bargar. 

Since the 1950s, composers 
have occasionally used satellite 
data and scientific equations to 
provide raw material for their mu- 
sic, caring nothing about the num- 
bers themselves. "Sonification is 
the other side of the coin," Bar- 
gar says, where sounds have to 
correlate with data in an intelligi- 
ble manner. That requires compos- 
ing skills and an awareness of 
how people listen to sound. 

A group at NCSA has created 
sonification software that, when 
run on an IBM-compatible PC 
with a MIDI (musical-instrument 
digital interface) synthesizer, can 
turn just about any data into 




sound. In addition, NCSA's Alan 
Craig and Carta Scaletti of Sym- 
bolic Sound in Champaign, Illi- 
nois, have created a videotape 
that demonstrates the use of 
sound and graphics to represent 
data, including smog information 
in Los Angeles and forest-fire da- 
ta in Yellowstone National Park. 

Sonification offers obvious ben- 
efits for visually impaired people 
who are unable to see computer 
screens. David Lunney, a chem- 
ist at East Carolina University, is 
developing tools that will help 
blind chemists and chemistry stu- 
dents to analyze compounds by 
listening for specific sounds. 

Clarity, the company Kramer 
founded in Garrison, New York, in- 
vestigates more advanced appli- 
cations tfi which sound repre- 
sents several variables at once. 
Clarity may use the technology to 
create an audio system for oper- 
ating rooms, which will broadcast 
a patient's blood oxygen levels, 
blood pressure, and other vital 
signs. Clarity has already "son- 
ified" an ecosystem model for Ap- 
ple Computer and a mock nucle- 
ar-power-plant control room. The 
company has also spoken with 
financial-service firms interested 
in developing programs using 
audition to analyze stocks. 

The rub is that it takes a 
skilled ear to be able to discern 
subtle sound patterns. "Sound 
blends together into a gestalt 
much more readily than images 
do," Bargar admits. "Another prob- 
lem is that we tend to correlate 
what we see with what we hear." 

Kramer sees training as a big 
challenge but not necessarily a 
show-stopper. "You know when 
your car is running well just by lis- 
tening to it. A certain noise, like 
a rattie, might also tell you 
what's wrong. Sounds in a well- 
designed sonification system 
could be interpreted in much the 
same way." DO 



KID 



THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING COOL: 

Hip, fun software packages get kkjs learning. 

By Gregg Keizer 



Knowledge 
Adventure's Kill's 
Zoo offers 
the excitement of 
multimedia- 
animation, video 
clips, sound 
effects, and voice 
narration — 
without a CD-ROM 
drive, and 
it's great for early 
readers and 
preschoolers. 



Kids want cool. They 
want cool clothes, cool 
shoes, cool friends, 
cool moms, cool dads. At the 
mail, all they care about is look- 
ing cool, At school, they're hap- 
py enough learning cool stuff 
about dinosaurs and exotic ani- 
mals, and they don't much care 
fiowthey learn as long as 
it's, well, cool. 

Fortunately, the best 
learning software for kids 
rises above the border- 
line of dweeb dom by com- 
bining great material with 
slick presentation. Kid's 
Zoo is a cool program for 
preschoolers and early 
readers. Published by 
Knowledge Adventure, 
the company known for 
its Science, Space, and Di- 
nosaur Adventure lineup. 
Kid's Zoo appeals to 
young humans because it fea- 
tures young animals. Eight activ- 
ities or areas put jerky movies of 
baby animals on the screen, ask 
kids to match digitized sounds 
with the right infant animal, quiz 
children on the animals' range, 
and more. An abbreviated ency- 
clopedia rounds out the program 
by providing some basic informa- 
tion on the various mammals, rep- 
tiles, invertebrates, amphibians, 



and birds found in the program. 
Even though Kid's Zoo isn't on 
CD, it still packs a multimedia 
punch. But make sure you have 
a good-quality sound board in 
your PC, for the sound effects 
and narration are tough to make 
out on some of the less expen- 
sive audio, such as the Sound 





Source or the Sound Blaster. 

Peter Pan isn't science or sci- 
ence fiction (okay, call it fantasy), 
but it's still fun. Cool fqr slightly 
older kids, Pan is an interactive 
story that brings children into the 
tale by asking them to help Peter 
put down Hook. At various stag- 
es in the story, Peter Pan takes a 
break and asks kids to use one 
of its paint-box-like characters — 
a pencil head, for instance — to 
erase or paint or connect the 
dots. Each time kids make a 
choice of tool, the story branch- 
es in a different direction, so Pan 
is replayable, even suitable for si- 
multaneous play by more than 
one child. This Electronic Arts pro- 
gram comes in versions for PC 
and Mac on either floppy or CD, 
as well as on compact disc for 
the new 3DO Interactive Multiplay- 

■'■■. er from Panasonic. 
I Shelly Duvall's It's a Bird's 

„J Life from Sanctuary Woods 
may carry a bit of science, 
though the story and art are 
what make this multimedia adven- 



ture cool for little ones. Actress 
Duvall both wrote and narrates 
It's a Bird's Life. Preschoolers and 
early elementary school-aged 
kids will enjoy this story, which 
takes a collection of wacky birds 
on a quest to the Amazon. Each 
screen — and there are around 60 
of them— includes objects kids 
can click on for some sur- 
prising results. Click on a 
monkey, for instance, and 
he tosses. fruit into the 
jaws of an alligator. This 
CD title for the Mac, PC, 
and 3DO features narra- 
tion, cool bird noises, and 
enough other information 
to tempt older kids. 
They'll especially like the 
x-ray machine that lets 
th.em see bird bones. 

Discover Space is a 
more straightforward Om- 
ni kind of kids' program, 
for this Br0derbund title takes chil- 
dren on an exploratory mission off 
Earth, into the solar system, and 
beyond. Discover Space in- 
cludes a slew of information 
about the sun, the pianets, the 
space-exploration program, as- 
teroids and comets, and deep- 
space objects. Some are just col- 
orful slides— like the deep- 
space objects — but others let 
kids click on stuff. In the Planets 
section, for example, you can 
make the worlds rotate, balance 
them on a scale to compare 
mass, watch animations of Jupi- 
ter's moons or Saturn's rings, and 
view the orbital location of the plan- 
ets on any given day, This PC pro- 
gram gets really cool, though, 
when you head into the Asteroids 
area and make one smack into 
the Earth. 

It's crucial that you put such 
cool software in kids' hands — 
with it, kids will learn almost in 
spite of themselves. Make it 
cool, you might say, and they 
will come.Od 






onnrui oruurue 



VIRTUAL DELIGHTS: 

Your participation has made our online service a. very lively place 

By Keith Ferrell 



■ ^% ■ e had a feeling last 
I I summer as we pre- 
%m %m pared to launch our 
online service that Omni's read- 
ers would react positively to the 
opportunity to interact with the 
magazine's staff, its authors and 
experts, and each other. We 
proved to be even more right 
than we dreamed, 

In just its first few weeks of op- 
eration, Omni Magazine Online ex- 
perienced more than 100,000 vis- 
its, making it one of the liveliest 
online arenas around. 

What goes on during those vis- 
its? Any number of things, all of 
them determined by you. The flex- 
ibility of the format means that 
you tailor your visits to your par- 
ticular interests and needs. 

Some people simply stop in 
from time to time to read the lat- 
est postings; perhaps visit the Om- 
ni Reading Room, where ar- 
chived material from past issues 
of the magazine is stored; look in 
on Scot Morris's Games area for 
a little brain teasing; or browse 
through Continuum or Antimatter 
for a particular nugget of informa- 
tion. There's plenty to read and 
ponder in Omni Online, and 
we've heard from many of our 
readers that you enjoy simply cruis- 
ing through the service. 

Others take a more active ap- 
proach, wading into debates and 
forums, enlivening the message- 
board areas with their comments 
and opinions. Our to pic- oriented 
message boards now embrace 
dozens of categories, disciplines, 
areas of interest, debate arenas, 
special-interest groups, and un- 
abashed bull sessions. New top- 
ics appear constantly, prompted 
by articles in the magazine, head- 
lines and breakthroughs an- 
nounced in the daily news, or sim- 
ply as a result of individual inter- 
est. It only takes one person with 
a question or comment to launch 
a new thread of discussion. 



The chance to sound off, as of- 
ten and as loudly as you wish, 
seems to appeal to you. Omni's 
readers are lively, contentious, ar- 
ticulate, individualistic, and gre- 
garious, and all of those qualities 
are revealed in your online post- 
ings and letters to the editor. 
(Gary Null's November column on 
chelation therapy proved a partic- 
ularly provocative topic.) 

You also know a lot and are ea- 
ger to share your knowledge 
with each other. Questions do not 
linger long unanswered online. 

Our live sessions have also 
proved popular. We've held focus 
groups, chat ses- 
sions, question- 
and-answer fests, 
seminars, and 
more on subjects 
as diverse as the 
frontiers of neuro- 
science and the 
psychology of an 
alien abduction, 
from science fic- 
tion to supernatu- 
ralism. Sometimes 
there are several 
live events in a 
week, and attend- 
ance at these 
events is still grow- 
ing. It's nice to see you there. 

People are discovering as 
well that Omni Online can serve 
special purposes. We've already 
heard of couples being intro- 
duced through our service, ad- 
vice and counsel sought and re- 
ceived, and even informal swap 
meets, many of them centered 
around hard-to-find books and oth- 
er science and science-fictional 
memorabilia. 

In short, Omni Online was cre- 
ated as a virtual house of many 
intellectual mansions, and the re- 
ality is far more than a merely vir- 
tual delight. 

A great deal of the credit for 
Omni Online's success should be 




directed toward Associate Editor/ 
Online Editor Erin Murphy. In addi- 
tion to being a terrific article edi- 
tor — Erin is responsible for Contin- 
uum, among other aspects of the 
magazine — she possesses a re- 
al gift for understanding the na- 
ture of interactive publishing. As 
we've pointed out before, both 
here and online, the electronic ver- 
sion of Omni is intended as nei- 
ther a substitute nor a duplication 
of the magazine you hold in your 
hands. Rather, it's an environ- 
ment with its own nature, char- 
acteristics, and approach. 
Erin has seen to it that Omni 
Online's approach 
is accessible, sen- 
sibly organized 
(something, to be 
frank, that is too 
often missing 
from online envi- 
ronments) and ef- 
ficiently run. She 
also brings to the 
electronic world 



the : 



•nse 



of humor and en- 
thusiasm that enli- 
vens our editorial 
offices. Omni On- 
line can be a very 
funny place. 
But it can also be a very seri- 
ous place. Important questions 
are asked, vital topics addressed. 
Erin plays a part in all of this. 
Above all, Erin Murphy brings to 
the online environment that 
same sense of intellectual adven- 
turousness and speculative bold- 
ness, coupled with a deep re- 
spect for the reader, that has al- 
ways been part of Omni's charter. 
Many of you have told me that 
you feel as at home in Omni On- 
line as you do here, in the mag- 
azine's pages. Whether you 
knew it or not, you were thanking 
Erin as well as me, and it's my 
pleasure now to pass those 
thanks along to her publicly. OQ 



Associate Editor 
Erin Murphy 
Is also our Online 
editor. She 
sees to it Uiat the 
electronic 
version of Omni 
is as lively, 
provocative, and 
adventurous 
as the magazine 
itself. 




coruTiniuunn 

ROOM TO RIDE: 

Cyclists work to make urban areas safe for bikes. Plus, plastic that may 

grow on trees, and why the boys of summer strike out 



My bike has leather grips and lenders — a simple gear ghif! 
on the handlebar, a pants protector around the chain, and 
a kickstand. It's dark green. My neighbor Anne came over, 
ran her hand across the frame and said, "it's the coolest 
bike I've ever seen." 

It & cool and part of a growing trend in bicycle design — 
the hybrid, the commuter bike. Bicycle manufacturers are 
simultaneously gearing up to meet the growing demand by 
building bikes more appealing to the bicyclist who isn't in- 
terested in breaking speed records or traversing primitive 

terrain, but just getting 

■ around. My own is a Spe- 
cialized "Milano," as in Eu- 
ropean, cathedrals, cob- 
bled streets, cafes— as in 
urban transportation. 

Specialized Bicycle Com- 
ponents, based in Morgan 
Hill, California, got the idea 
for the Milano after several 
R&D trips to Europe to 
look for component manu- 
facturers for their mountain 
bikes. They saw stylishly 
dressed Italians on their 
way to work by bike and re- 
alized that these people 
had made a choice to ped- 
al. The idea behind the Mi- 
lano is that the rider can 
manage with no bike knowl- 
edge, with no spandex. 

No bike lanes in your town? No problem. In 1991, Congress 
passed the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act 
(ISTEA), a highway bill with two mandates: 1) Every state 
must have a bicycle and pedestrian coordinator; 2) the 
needs of bicyclists and pedestrians must be incorporated 
into the long-range plans at state and local levels. These 
plans might include bike lanes or paths, putting a shoulder 
along the highway, or bike racks on public -transportation. 

The money to exec.Jie such projects can come from IS- 
TEA, which has authorized $150 billion in federal transpor- 
tation funds to be spent before 1 997 and does not put a cap 
on how much should be allotted for bicycling and pedestri- 
an concerns. The key to getting the money and using it wise- 
ly, according to Andrew Clarke of the Bicycle Federation of 
America, based in Washington, DC, is self-organization at 
the state and local levels. "How much money is spent on mak- 
ing bicycling and walking more viable depends on how 




Think Globally, Bike Locally: 

The Milano is the first in a series of all-purpose 

urban bikes designed 

by Specialized Bicycle Components. 



well we do our job," Clarke says. He suggests bicycling ad- 
vocates start at home by attending state or local bicycling 
conferences, contacting their state bicycle and pedestrian 
coordinator through the Department of Transportation, or go- 
ing directly to city planners. 

At the national level, advocates can write their repre- 
sentatives in Congress to support the Bicycle and Pedes- 
trian Transportation Improvement Act of 1993, known as the 
"3-Percent Solution," a bill sponsored by Representative Jo- 
seph Kennedy of Massachusetts, which requires that at 
least 3 percent of federal 
transportation funds -be 
spent on facilities for bi- 
cycling and walking. If 
passed, the legislation 
will be incorporated into 
ISTEA, The bill, Kennedy 
says, "could dramatically 
improve our nation's eco- 
nomic competitiveness 
and air quality." 

One group has been suc- 
cessful in securing money 
from ISTEA — the Washing- 
ton-based Rails-to-Trails 
Conservancy. Members 
promote a "linear" park sys- 
tem by converting aban- 
doned railroad corridors to 
paths for biking, running, 
horseback riding, cross- 
country skiing, and walk- 
ing. Sixty million dollars from ISTEA has been spent on 95 
projects, according to David Burwell, president of the organiza- 
tion. They now operate 541 trails in 45 states, totaling 6,749 
miles. Burwell warns, however, that while 2,000 to 3.000 
tracks are abandoned annually, many corridors are lost to 
private landowners for lack of action. 

My Milano has limitations. It's a wash in bad weather, and 
I can't carry cargo. But I do know how to get to my favorite 
cafe on the riverfront by bike without hitting the traffic on Mar- 
ket Street. I can be at the library in three minutes or take the 
back roads from the river to the sea. No sweat. 

— JANET STTTES 

For information, contact the Bicycle Federation of America 
(202-463-6622) or Raiis-to-Trails Conservancy, 1400 16th 
Street NW, Washington, DC, 20036. For a directory of rati 
traiis in the top ten states, send $2 to the Conservancy. 




cofUTiniuunn 




It's not the heat of summer days that a 
but the length, a scientist has found. 



SUMMER SEMEN 

Summer wreaks havoc on 
semen. Research shows that 
semen quality drops off 
as the days turn hot, trans- 
lating into a 20- to 30- 
percent reduction in sperm 
counts and fewer babies 
born during the spring in 
warm climates. But no one 



knows why. 
Enter Richard LeVine of 

the National Institute of Child 
Health and Human Develop- 
ment, who believes that 
it's not heat that does in the 
sperm, but light. 

To see how air tempera- 
ture affected semen during 
the summer, LeVine and 
his colleagues studied 64 



men who worked in 
air-conditioned offices and 

76 who worked at least 
four hours a day in the hot 
sun. To LeVine's surprise, 
both groups exhibited equal 
declines in semen 
quality, indicating that 
testicular temperature was 
not responsible. 

This finding led LeVine 
to a recent monkey study. 
When exposed to 16 
hours' of light per day, the 
monkeys' testicles shrank 
and produced smaller 



as well, with the longer days 
of summer causing sperm 
quality to decline. 

Would living at the equator 
or the poles exaggerate 
these effects? That's not yet 
clear, LeVine says, although 
he suspects it would not, 
because studies have found 
IiNIih difference in sperm 
quality between summer and 
winter samples from men 
living at higher and lower 
latitudes in the Northern 
Hemisphere. 

LeVine's work may prove 



THE PUMPKIN HAS BEEN KNOWN TO DEVELOP 

ROOTS WHOSE TOTAL LENGTH 

REACHED 82,000 FEET, OR MORE THAN 15 MILES. 



monkeys received light just 
eight hours a day, the 
effect was reversed. LeVine 

surmises that fight expo- 
sure affects human testicles 



valuable for people using 
sperm donations for in vitro 
fertilization. "If a couple 
obtained a sample in the 
winter, it might give them a 
little extra boost," he 
says. — Paul McCarthy 



A RIVER RUNS 
THROUGH IT: 
INDIA'S SARDAR 
SAROVAR DAM 

Global Response is an 
environmental group that 
takes action by encouraging 
members to write- to the 
decision makers in charge 
of specific projects harmful 
to the environment. Omni will 
periodically inform readers 
of panicufar Global Re- 
sponse actions, To join 
Global Response, write to 
Box 7490, Boulder, Colora- 
do 80306-7490. 

India's Narmada River 
swells with rains during the 
summer monsoon season. 

32 OMNI 



Hindus revere it as India's 
most holy river. And now a 
giant concrete dam is rising 
from its bed. 

The Sardar Sarovar dam 
is part of the Narmada 
River Project to harness the 
entire Narmada watershed. 
Behind its unfinished 
wall, villagers are threatened 
by its progress. Dammed 
water will flood their homes 
and fields as well as the 
forests where tribal people 
hunt and gather medicinal 
herbs and wild foods. It 
will also eliminate wetlands 
upstream and downstream, 
jeopardizing native plants 
and animals. Some village 
families have vowed to 



leave at least. one member 
to die Symbolically in the 
rising water. 

In March 1993, India's 
government requested, that 
the World Bank cancel the 
undispersed portion of its ■ 
loan for the dam, effectively 
removing the World Bank 
from involvement in the 
project. Analyzing the proj- 
ect, independent develop- 
ment-aid specialist Bradford 
Morse found that "the 
projects as they stand are. 
flawed; ... the environ- 
mental impacts of the 
projects have not been 
properly considered 
or adequately addressed." 

Proponents argue that the 



dam is necessary to provide 
water and electricity for 
India's masses. Opponents 
insist that the dam's costs 
exceed its benefits. And 
some activists point out that 
time remains in which to 
change the dam's design; 
the dam is scheduled for 
completion in 2000 and has 
reached only one-third of 
its full height. 

Join Indian activists ask- 
ing that the dam's design be 
reexamined and that new 
ways of supplying water be 
explored. Write to Indian 
Prime Minister Narasimha 
Rao, PM's Secretariat, South 
Block, New Delhi, India 
110001.— Elizabeth Caile 



FOND MEMORIES 

OF THE 

ODOR OF PLASTIC 

What odors awaken fond 
memories from your 
childhood? Depending on 
your age, they could as 

easily be iresh paint as fresh 
air. A recent survey by 
Alan R. Hirsch, neurologist, 
psychiatrist, and director 
of the Smell and Taste 
Research and Treatment 
Foundation in Chicago, 
showed that people born 
before 1930 associate their 
childhoods with natural 
smells, such as pine, hay, 
horses, and sea air. But 
those born hetweer\ 1930 i 
and 1979 connect childhood 
with the more synthetic odors 
of plastic, scented markers, 
mentholated chest rub, 
airplane fuel, and Play-Doh. 

Younger people link 
manmade odors to their 
childhood memories 
because they grew up in 
less active, indoor surround- 
ings, Hirsch believes. 
And-this phenomenon could 
indirectly pose problems 



for the environment. 

"People tend to re-create 
the surroundings they're 
most comfortable with," 
Hirsch explains. "If they feel 
nostalgic for manmade 
things, they'll re-create them, 
and their level of commitment 
for the environmental move- 
ment may be lessened." 

Emotion and the sense of 
smell are strongly linked, 
according to Hirsch. The 
olfactory bulb, which controls 
the sense of smell, belongs 
to the brain's limbic system, 
the origin of emotion. 
The limbic area may play a 
role in memory as well, 
explaining why certain odors 
can call forth strong, emo- 
tion aiiy charged memories. 

But such memories are not 
always pleasant. Of the 
989 subjects interviewed by 
Hirsch and his colleagues, 
1 out oi 12 reported having 
an unhappy childhood. 
For these people, unusual 
and distasteful odors— moth- 
balls, dog waste, sewer 
gas, body odor, bus fumes- 
summoned childhood 
memories. — Pam Brick 





SYNTHETIC HARVEST 

imagine growing a piant in 
your backyard garden that 
produced lumps of biode- 
gradable plastic instead of 
Tc-mytoes or cucumbers. 

Christopher Somerville at 
Michigan State University, 
along with research associ- 
ate Yves Poirier and 
colleagues at James Madi- 
son University, has genetical- 
ly engineered a plant that 
can develop plastic in its 
stems and leaves. In just ten 
years, Somerville predicts, 
sc:sniists will create a plant 
capable of sprouting enough 
plastic "fruit" to use in the 
manufacture of disposable 
bottles and diaper liners. 

Somerville and his col- 
leagues tested their plastic- 
growing technique on a 
weed of the mustard family 
called Arabidopsis thaliana, 
which has the simple genetic 
structure they needed. They 
inserted two key genes into 
Arabidopsis plants, creating 
two new varieties. By 
cross-fertilizing the two lines, 
the researchers came up 



with a hybrid containing both 
genes that produces a type 
oi piastic caWed PVAB. 

"It's the first time a plant 
has been genetically engi- 
neered to make something 
other than a protein." 
Somerville says. "Right now, 
we're only producing small 
amounts of PHB, about 
one-half of one percent of the 
plant's weight. The next 
step is to restructure the 
gene to produce PHB in the 
storage areas of the 
plant — increasing the PHB 
yield about thirtyfold." 

"It's an intriguing idea and 
rather a unique approach 
to genetic engineering," says 
Nachama Wilker of the 
Council for Responsible Ge- 
netics. "I would raise 
concerns from an environ- 
mental viewpoint because it's 
better for us to replace 
plastic rather than grow more 
of it to place in landfills." 
—Joseph Baneth Allen 



"Darwin is truly great but 
he is the dullest 
great man I can think of." 
-^Alfred North Whitehead 




conjTiruuunn 



CONFRONTING 
BIRD AVOIDANCE 
HEAD-ON 

U.S. Air Force jets run into 

birds about 3,000 times a 
year. Although the phenome- 
non might seem amusing at 
first, the statistics do not: 
Since 1987, seven planes 
have gone down as a result 
of these collisions and six 
crew members have been 
killed. Annual damage typi- 
cally exceeds $65 million. 

The Air Force is taking the 
matter seriously. It has a Bird 
Aircraft Strike Hazard (BASH) 
team working to develop a 
computerized Bird Avoid- 
ance Model (BAM), which 
should be operational some- 
time this year. With the 
model, which will graphically 
depict bird-migration routes 
in the United States, pilots 
will be able to see where their 
flight route intersects major 



oi'd pathways. If the route 
looks risky, pilots can pick 
another time to fly or select 
an alternate route. 

"We want to minimize wr-ai 
happens io us and at the 
same time minimize what 
happens to the birds," says 
Pv'ajor Ronald Merritt, who 
head? ihe project from the 
Tyndall Air Force Base 
in Florida. "Either way, the 
upshot is the same," 

Over time, the Air Force 
will expand the model to 
incorporate bird "traffic" data 
for the rest of North America, 
Europe, and other regions 
where the Air Force often 
flies. In addition, the BASH 
team will study bird flight 
patterns in political hot spots 
such as the Middle East 
and Central America. "Some 
parts of the world like 
Panama are on prime bird- 
Tiigr=nion oath ■/■.■■ays," Merriti 
explains. — Steve Nadis 




I 


£*--; ■ - 


^ V W$3: 






yp:-/^: 


- v«3sk? ',j '. 


■\ ■^*|i3f 'V! 






H"V '* 


>■ <l d*$m 


■ -~.*,jfc : - -.■ 


.■■,.. 


ssssssi? 


• 


HAIL HOODS 


material as bungee cords 




'hold the Hail Buster in 


■Today's cars can do 


place,' and when hail hits. 


.amazing things, but with- ■ 


'bey "wow like the sheck 


standing hail isn ; one o! 


absorbers on the wheels of 


them. In 1991, hail ■ 


you r car' : to cushion the 


raining down on ears and 


impact, Actor explains. 


house roofs across tie 


■John DuVall. an industrial 


eountry produced $4 J I 


engineer and plastics 


million worth o" damage. 


expel, made, his Deflector 


Nov: two Colorado inven- 


3000 in three layers: 


tors have independently 


smooth -black nylon on the 


come up with hail pro- 


bottom, foam padding 


tection ior cars. Both in- 


iri the middle, and a tough, 


ventions, which resemble 


lear-rsslstant nylon top. 


car covers, are small, 


DuVall tested some 30 dif- 


lightweight, and easy to ... 


ferent kinds ef foam to 


use, and bctn : o^c into car 


find one that would stay 


trunks. As an added bonus',- 


springy enough over a 


they also. protect against 


broad temperature span. 


u'traviolet rays arc heav 


Both unftsean be .' 


Jim Actor, -an inventor 


adapted to "rucks, ooats, 


and commercial-airline pi- 


and, small aircraft. 


lot, 'designed his Hail 


"Once your car is hail 


Buster on the trampoline 


■ damaged, it's never the 


principle. An outer skin 


same," DuVai- i^ays. Corsid- 


■..of vinyl 'covers 25 foam ' 


erng that a car is a- "pretty 


bricks placedon a layer of 


big investment, tnis Is pretty 


Cross-Tull, the swimming 


inexpensive proiec;ior." 


pool liner material. .The . 


Prices for the Hail Buster 


bricks. maintain a three-inch 


range from .$210 to $385; 


airspace netween the;- two 


the Deflector runs. between 


layers of materia-. Tethers 


.$320 -and $400. 


fashioned from the same ■ 


■ — Peggy Noonan 




cofUTiRJuunn 




ANTS AND THE 
DESERT 

It turns out that human 
activity may not bear all the 
blame for an ecological 
phenomenon called desertifi- 
cation, which now affects 
one quarter of the earth's 
surface. A species of 
ant — Genus nessor, to be 
precise — also plays a role. 

At least that's the 
contention of Harold Heat- 



That means the ants, 
which gather various types of 
seeds, have no grass with 
which to vary their diet, so 
they increase their use of 
perennials, storing the seeds 
in underground granaries 
far below the germination 
level. The practice tides the 
insects over until the rains 
return and bring back the 
grass, but it — along with an 
abundance of grazing 
livestock — exhausts the sup- 



AT A STEADY JOGGER'S PACE OF SIX MILES PER HOUR, 

IT WOULD TAKE 1 73 DAYS TO GO 

AROUND THE EQUATORIAL CIRCUMFERENCE OF 

THE EARTH, AND MORE THAN FIVE 

YEARS TO GO AROUND JUPITER, THE LARGEST PLANET 



wole, a North Carolina State 
University zoologist and 
ecoiogist who has studied 
ant behavior in both the 
Gobi and Sahara deserts. 
There, the annual grasses 
die back during periods 
of drought, leaving only 
perennial bushes and shrubs 
to hold the soil in place. 



ply of seeds so that the 
plants which normally hold 
the soil in place gradually 
disappear, causing desertifi- 
cation—degradation of semi- 
arid land into vast areas 
where nothing can grow. 

Heatwole emphasizes that 
overgrazing by camels, 
goats, and sheep is the main 




cause of desertification; the 
ants' activities during 
drought delay recovery of the 
grasses. The land can't 
tolerate such a combination. 
But knowing this doesn't 
make solving the problem 
any easier, cautions Heat- 
wole, whose findings 
emerged from a joint U.S.- 
Turisian study. 

"Baiting Or spraying the 
affected areas isn't practical 
because of their size, and 



exterminating them may not 
be a good idea because 
the ants control a species of 
weed that even camels, 
which will eat anything, won't 
touch. Remove the ants, 
and weeds might take over," 
he explains. 

— George Nobbe 

"A thing is not 
necessarily true because a 
man dies for it. " 

— Oscar Wilde 



AN EYE FOR A 
DRILL 

In cardiovascular surgery, 
the only constant some- ' 
times seems to be innova- 
tion. The'latest ground- 
breaking device is a tiny 
ultrasonic transmitter, 
resembling a thin, flexible 
pencil, that could make 
the angiogram obsolete as 
a method of Ideating 
plaque deposits on coro- 
nary artery walls. 

The new device, still 
under development by Paul 
G. Yock at the University of 
California at San Francisco, 
is considered safer and 
more accurate than an 
angiogram because it dis- 
plays on a monitor a 
continuous 360-degree im- 
age of the artery on which 
a surgeon is working. Yock 
designed it for use in a 
procedure called atherecto- 
my, in. which a high-speed 
drill, shaves away danger- 
ous arterial plaque, 

The transmitter, called 
AID for Atherectomy Imag- 
ing Device, sits directly 
behind the rotating cutting 
drill at the tip of a catheter. 
It simultaneously emits and 



receives sound waves that 
bounce off the surrounding 
tissue. The drill itself is 
housed in a canoe-shaped 
capsule open only on one 
side, and as the drill moves 
from the back of the 
housing to the front, it cuts 
an area about half an inch 
long and less than an 
eighth of an inch wide. 

"With this device, we can 
guide the drill more 
accurately and remove a 
larger percentage of the 
plaque," says Yock, adding 
that angiograms can fail 
to locate plaque that has 
built up on only one side 
of an artery- "An angiogram 
only shows you the size 
of the hole you're working 
on, but whatwe can get 
now is an always-changing 
picture of what the wall 
of the artery looks like." 

The imaging device has 
worked successfully in 
laboratory experiments us- 
ing arteries removed 
from cadavers. Pending 
animal tests with pigs and 
human clinical trials, 
the Food. and Drug Admin- 
istration could approve 
the device within the next 
few years. — George Nobbe 




A 



ARTICLE BY DICK TERES! 

II wasn't a good plan to begin with, but then De- 
mocritus was never your practical sort of fellow. The 
plan was this: He was going to commit suicide by 
fasting to death. 

Democritus was a philosopher who lived in ancient 
Abdera on the Greek mainland. The year was 460 
B.C., give or take a decade, and the old philosopher's 
life was saved by a clever ploy on the part, of his 
sisters. The women's religious festival in honor of the 
goddess Demeter was approaching, and Democri- 
tus's sisters pleaded with him to prolong his life just 
long enough for them to attend the celebration. 
They asked only that he smell some freshly baked 
bread. He agreed 

The vapors from the bread not only revived De- 
mocritus physically, but gave him an intellectual rea- 
son to live on by raising the most important ques- 
tion he had ever asked himself: How does the es- 
sence of bread travel from the loaf to the nose? The 
answer is the basis of Western science. All matter, 
Democritus concluded, is composed of invisible, in- 
divisible particles he called atoms — literally, "that 
which cannot be cut." We smell bread because par- 
ticles slough off the loaf and float through the air to 
our noses. Democritus went on to develop the atom- 
ic theory of matter. Matter is not continuous, but 
lumpy, composed of tiny particles. There are a fi- 
nite number of these particles, and in combination, 
they can be used to build anything in the universe, 

PHOTOGRAPHS BY PETER LIEPKE 



im 



THE LAS! 




EXPEMMENT 

THE 

ih 







CENTURY 









Detector wizard Alvin Taltestrup hopes to trap the heaviest, meanest quark in the universe. 



GAMBLE: 



from soup to nuts to quasars. In its 

time, and for many centuries thereafter, 
the atomic theory was considered a cra- 
zy idea. 

This past fall, physicists at the Fermi 
National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermi- 
lab) began an experiment that, if every- 
thing goes right, will culminate a 2,400- 
year-old search for Democritus's atoms. 
We don't call them atoms anymore — 
that term was approprialed by chem- 
ists in the nineteenth century to refer to 
the smallest units of the chemical ele- 
ments, such as carbon, oxygen, and ura- 
nium, Today we call the smallest parti- 
cles in the universe quarks and leptons. 
Physicists believe there are six leptons, 
six quarks: twelve elementary particles 
altogether. The six leptons — things like 
electrons, muons, neutrinos — have all 
been discovered. And five of the 
quarks have been found. One is miss- 
ing: the sixth. It's called the top quark. 
It must be found, or Democritus will 
have sniffed that loaf of bread in vain. 

To find the top quark, physicists at 
Fermilab will 'use the Tevatron, the 
most powerful particle accelerator in the 
world, which attains energies of 1.2 TeV 
{trillion electron volts), about the ener- 
gy of 1.2 trillion flashlight batteries. In 
terms of funding and personnel, it is the 
biggest scientific undertaking in the 
world at present. About 800 physicists 
will be manning the detectors that sit 
like battleships on the accelerator 
tube. Another 350 will work on the ac- 
celerator itself and related equipment 
at the lab. The search for the top 
quark will be the last great experiment 
of the twentieth century. 

Halloween Event 

To the untrained eye, the search 
should have ended with the Halloween 
Event, as it's now known in physics cir- 
cles. On October 31. 1992, a proton 
and an antiproton collided in the Teva- 
tron at a point about three stories be- 
neath the feet of physicists sitting in the 
control room of CDF (Collider Detector, 
Fermilab), the lab's $60-million particle 
detector. There's nothing unusual 
about two particles colliding. The Teva- - 
iron produces 100,000 collisions per sec- 
ond. But this nalicula-' co'lision was spe- 

40 OMNI 



IF THE TOP QUARK ISN'T FOUND SOON, WELL WITNESS 
ONE OF THE GREATEST CRISES IN SCIENCE HISTORY 




Melivu Sliorhel: "Like tonkins fa 



cial. Out of the impact came two lep- 
tons: a highly energetic electron and a 
highly energetic muon. There were al- 
so two "jets" of hadrons — narrow, ener- 
getic streams of particles like protons 
and neutrons. And there was a neutrino. 
These particles are not important in and 
of Ihemselves. Electrons, after all, were 
discovered in 1898, muons in 1937. Tak- 
en together, however, this particular set 
of particles looked suspiciously like a 
rare signature of the top quark. 

It wasn't perfect, though. "The 
muon hit a crack between two calorim- 
eters," explained Melvyn Shochet, a 
spokesperson for CDF. He went on to 
explain that detectors have "cracks," 



a stark of 500 billion other needles. 



blind spots. In order to relay the infor- 
mation out of the detector, you need ca- 
bles that lead from the various sensors 
to the gigantic computers that sort out 
the data. Alvin Tollestrup, one of the 
physicists credited as being a prime 
mover behind the building of both the 
Tevatron and CDF, points out that 
there are 30,000 wires in the detector. 
The particles "tickle" the wires, and "the 
computers know where the wires are," 
explains Tollestrup. Getting the informa- 
tion out is the problem. This requires ca- 
bles. These are the cracks, alleyways 
where there are no sensors, and that's 
where the renegade muon went. 
Another potential top event, as 



QUARKS 



# 



w 



I The lightest 

j quark, makes ■ 
up protons, ! 
neutrons. Has 
+2/3 charge. 

DOWN [ 
Also found in 
protons 

and neutrons, 
but has 

-1/3 charge. 




L E P T O N S 




^ELECTRON 

First elemen- 
tary particle 



is essential to 
key reactions. 



MUON 

It acts like 
an electron, 
but If s over 
200 times 
heavier. 




TAU 

Like the 
electron and 
muortbut 
much, much 
heavier. 


MUON 
NEUTRINO 

The muon's 
chargeiess 
neutrino 
partner. 




TAU 
NEUTRINO 

The 

tau particle's 

neutrino 

partner.. 



First generation particles make 
up our present world. But the others 
can bo "manufactured" today in 
accelerator or cosmic-ray collisions. 



these things are called, happened in 
Fermilab's other giant detector, DO (d- 
zero) the following January. This colli- 
sion, said DO spokesperson Paul Gran- 
nis, was essentially like CDF's Hallow- 
een Event, but the electron and muon 
were even more energetic. Like Sho- 
chet, Grannis also is not ready to claim 
victory. "One event, like a swallow, 
does not a springtime make," he says. 
These recent events, when added to 
a potential top event recorded during 
the Tevatron's 1988-1989 run, means 
that scientists at Fermilab have appar- 
ently produced a top quark on three sep- 
arate occasions. So why are they still 
searching? It might help to look at the 
weird process we call particle physics. 
In order to find the smallest, oldest ob- 
ject in the universe, one must use a 

42 OMNI 



new, enormous machine. 

The Tevatron lies 30 feet beneath the 
northern Illinois prairie on Fermilab's Ba- 
tavia site, about half an hour's drive 
from Chicago. The lab is a billion-dol- 
lar complex, an almost spiritual combi- 
nation of high technology and natural 
history. The Tevatron occupies a four- 
mile-around tunnel lined with more 
than a thousand superconducting mag- 
nets for focusing and steering the 
beam of particles. The 660 acres of 
land enclosed by the accelerator ring 
is planted with indigenous tall prairie 
grass. Surface collection lakes within 
the ring are inhabited by trumpeter 
swans, Canada geese, and sandhill 
cranes. Across the road from the Teva- 
tron is a pasture where a herd of a hun- 
dred buffalo roam, animals that hadn't 



been seen in the area for 800 years be- 
fore the physicists brought them here 
from Colorado and South Dakota. 

In the Tevatron, events take place 
that haven't been seen for 15 billion 
years, a cosmic eye blink after the Big 
Bang that created our universe. The 
Tevatron's energies mimic conditions of 
a hotter bygone era, when bizarre, 
heavy particles like the top quark 
roamed the world. We get to this lost 
dimension via collisions. In the accel- 
erator, six bunches of protons circulate 
in the beam tube, a stainless-steel oval 
pipe about two inches high by three inch- 
es wide. In the same tube, but racing 
in the opposite direction, are sis bunch- 
es of anliprotons, or p-bars. (The 
name comes from the fact that protons 
are designated in reactions b^ p. Put a 
bar over it, p, and you've designated its 
antiparticle, the antiproton, or p-bar.) 
The magnets contract the bunches 
down to the radius of a human hair and 
steer the protons and p-bars into each 
other head-on at two separate points in 
the accelerator. It is at these two loca- 
tions where one finds Fermilab's two 
massive 5,000-ton detectors, which 
must analyze the particles that come fly- 
ing out of the collisions. Tollestrup ex- 
plains that the material of the tube chang- 
es from stainless steel to beryllium for 
the 20 feet that it runs through the de- 
tector. This special section of tube 
costs $100, 00Q. Beryllium is a very 
light metal that is fairly transparent to 
the particles, allowing them to spew in- 
to the detectors unimpeded. 

Here's where it gets weird. The par- 
ticles produced in the collisions are 
sometimes heavier than the proton and 
p-bar that collided. This is why the 
term atom smasherls so inappropriate, 
because it implies that the purpose of 
an accelerator is to break particles 
apart to see what's inside. Yes, that is 
one role of the accelerator, but this will 
never get us to the top quark, because 
there are no top quarks inside protons 
and p-bars, What's inside each of 
them are up and down quarks, the light- 
est quarks, members of the first gener- 
ation of elementary particles. The top 
quark is a third-generation quark, an ele- 
mentary particle that hasn't existed 
since a tiny fraction of a second after 
the Big Bang. It's heavy. Physicists at 
Fermilab say its mass is somewhere be- 
tween 113 GeV (billion electron volts) 
and 250 GeV. The mass of the proton 
is about 1 GeV. Obviously, this means 
that if the top quark is to be found, the 
collisions in the Tevatron must produce 
a particle that weighs at least 113 
times more than the particles that col- 
lide in the machine. It's as if two Su- 
barus crashed head-on and instead of 



< 





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This is possible (win panicles, if not 
with Subarus) because the accelerator, 
in effect, makes the protons and anti- 
protons heavier by accelerating them. 
Fermilab director emeritus and Nobel lau- 
reate Leon Lederman says the accel 
erator is really a "ponderator." It's a sim- 
ple concept. Mike Tyson and Roberto 
Duran are said to have "heavy hands" 
not because their fists actually weigh 
more than other people's, but because 
they accelerate them more effectively. 

The collision of protons and antipro- 
tons allows the physicists to make new 
matter, heavier particles, by converting 
energy into matter using Albert Ein- 
stein's formula E=mc 2 (energy equals 
mass times the speed of light 
squared). The energy imparted to the 
protons and antiprotons by the accel- 
erator can be converted to mass. This 
is why physicists use units for energy 
(113 GeV, 2 TeV, and so on) as units 
of mass also. We can say the proton 
weighs 1 billion electron volts (1 GeV) 
because Einstein taught us that mass 
and energy are just two faces of the 
same coin. Keep in mind also that be- 
cause the speed of light squared (the 
c 2 ) is such a huge number, one needs 
an enormous amount of energy to 



make a tiny bit of mass, hence the 
need for powerful modern accelerators. 

When the particles col ids in the Teva- 
tron, they can create bursts of pure en- 
ergy, which very quickly coalesce 
back into new matter. But not all colli- 
sions are equal. Protons and antipro- 
tons are whirling conglomerates that are 
composed of three quarks that dance 
around each other exchanging other par : 
tides called gluons, which are messen- 
gers of the strong force that holds the 
quarks loosely together. So when a 
messy proton hits a messy antiproton, 
the results can vary. Fermilab's 
Stephen Parke compares the proton to 
a "peach with three pits." The stringy 
pulp represents the gluons being fired 
back and forth. This means that most 
collisions will be inconsequential, of low 
energy, as pulp collides with pulp or a 
pit collides with pulp. But the collision 
Fermilab scientists find most interesting 
is when pit collides with pit; a quark in 
the proton smashes head-on with an an- 
tiquark in the antiproton. The quark and 
antiquark antimatter annihilate, releas- 
ing enough energy to make the mas- 
sive top quark. 

Even then, you don't automatically 
end up with the desired particle — in 
this case, the missing quark, The 
weird probabilistic rules of quantum 




physics allow the burst of energy to 
form any combination ot particles it 
wants to as long as there's enough en- 
ergy/mass to produce them all and the 
various quantum requirements are ful- 
filled (the electric-charge signs must can- 
cel out, rules about spin and quantum 
numbers must be observed, and so 
on). In any one collision, 70 or more par- 
ticles may be produced. In a few of 
these events, one of those particles 
could be the top quark. But the odds 
are staggering. 

The traditional metaphor used is 
that finding a rare particle in an accel- 
erator is like looking for a needle in a 
haystack. At an April 1993 meeting of 
the American Physical Society, Melvyn 
Shochet and Paul Grannis took issue 
with this cliche. First of all, explained 
Grannis, the three potential top-quark 
events were the result of 1 ,5 trillion col- 
lisions, or one event out of every 500 
billion. No haystack has half a trillion 
pieces ot straw, says Grannis. 

Shochet says the problem is even 
worse. "In a haystack," 'he says, 
"there's a good way to tell the needle 
from the straw." And this explains why 
Fermilab has not yet claimed victory in 
the search for the top. To the untrained 
eye, the top quark is just another 
piece of straw. The problem is that the 
top quark, after being manufactured in 
the conflagration of the collision, exists 
for only an infinitesimal fraction of a sec- 
ond. It's estimated that it travels about 
the width of a proton before it decays 
into other, more common, particles. It's 
these particles — electrons, muons, had- 
rons, and the like — that fly out through 
the beam tube and into the massive de- 
tectors where they get measured and 
identified. "The things you actually see 
in an event," points out Tollestrup, "'are 
particles we've been studying for the 
last forty years." Sometimes these sec- 
ondary particles also decay before leav- 
ing the tube, meaning the top quark 
must be partially idenlifisc by particles 
that are really tertiary products of the 
collision, Inferences upon inferences 
upon inferences. 

There are various combinations of par- 
ticles, called channels, that scream "top 
quark" to a physicist — for example, the 
energetic electron and muon and two 
jets of hadrons that were seen on Hal- 
loween in 1992. Since one doesn't de- 
tect the top quark directly, couldn't 
some other particle or process mimic 
this s gnature? In a word, yes, As kids, 
we used to make phony bear-paw 
prints in the snow to scare one of the 
dumber neighbors. Particles do the 
same thing, although their motivations 
are hopefully more benign. They make 
iife miserao.e for anysi cists nonetheless. 



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Mundane events that mimic the new 
physics the experimenters are looking 
for are called "background." How many 
background events that mimic Fermi- 
lab's top-quark signature can one ex- 
pect in a trillion and a half collisions? 
The lab has now calculated that num- 
ber to be two to four events. And Fer- 
milab has found three top-quark events 
over those same numbers of collisions. 
Get the picture? 

This doesn't mean they haven't 
found it; it means they can't be sure. Dur- 
ing the current nine-month run of the 
Tevatron, they need to find more top 
events to make the discovery statisucal- 
ly secure. When the top is found, it will 
' be the final piece in a puzzle that we 
started putting together more than 
2,400 years ago, the final.proof that our 
universe is made out oftl.hy particles. 
And if it isn't found, we'll see one of the 
greaiest crises in the history of science. 

Atomism 

The belief that matter is composed of 
invisible particles is almost universally 
accepted today. The atomistic theory 
first proposed by Democritus is taught 
in grade schools and lies at the foun- 
dation of not only physics, but chemis- 
try, biology, and all sciences that are 
based upon physics (almost all formal 
science). Yet for most of the 2,400 
years since the idea was introduced, at- 
omism has been less than popular. 

In seven tee nth- century France, for in- 
stance, the punishment for believing in 
atomism was the death penalty. Even 
at the turn of the present century, fe- 
verish debates were held in Europe be- 
tween the energeticists, who believed 
that the fundamental stuff of nature was 
energy, and the atomists, who believed 
in particles. The leader of the energet- 
ics movement was none other than 
Ernst Mach of speed-of-sound fame 
(Mach 1; Mach 2, and so on). The loy- 
al opposition was headed by the Aus- 
trian physicist Ludwig Boltzmann. 
Mach admitted that diamonds, which 
the atomists. said were composed of car- 
bon atoms, were real, but that atoms 
were not. Diamonds can be polished, 
cut, and sold. But carbon atoms were 
but theoretical concepts, useful only in 
equations, according to Mach. Dia- 
monds could not really be broken up 
into little particles. The Ivlachian view 
was gaining more and more advocates 
in 1906, at which time Boltzmann, in 
poor health, became profoundly de- 
pressed that his life's work in atomism 
would be buried under an avalanche of 
energetics. In the summer of that year, 
Boltzmann took his family on vacation 
to the Bay of Duino near Trieste, and 
while his wife and daughter were enjoy- 

46 OMNI 



ing a swim, hanged himself in his 
room. No one knows whether it was par- 
ticles that drove Boltzmann to his 
death, but they have certainly caused 
much anguish through the centuries. 

The atomistic idea went out of 
vogue for 2,000 years after the death 
of Democritus — though there was a 
brief revival of the theory by the Roman 
philosopher Lucretius — not to be reborn 
until the Renaissance by that grand old 
rascal of physics, Galileo Galilei. High- 
er education during those bygone 
days was controlled by the Roman Cath- 
olic Church, which worshipped — intel- 
lectually speaking, of course — that- 
grand old half-wit Aristotle, who be- 
lieved, among other claptrap, that light 
was a "quality," incorporeal and sub- 
stance! ess Ga'ileo, on the- other hand, 
was an atomist. Everything, even light, 
had to be made out of something. In his 
first trip to Rome, he brought with him 



seventeenth-century 

France, 
the punishment for 

believing 
in the existence of 

atoms was 
the death penalty. 9 



a little box containing barium sulfide, 
known in those days by the more col- 
orful name "solar sponge." Barium sul- 
fide, if set out in the sunlight, will later 
glow in the dark. This Galileo demon- 
strated to a learned assembly of Aristo- 
telian scholars. His point was not lost 
on them, and they were disturbed. Gali- 
leo had taken something that was a quali- 
ty — sunlight— stored it in a rock, and re- 
leased it into the darkness. It was like 
bottling the sweetness of the Virgin 
Mary and pouring it into the hindquar- 
ters of a mule. Galileo said the solar 
sponge proved that there were "corpus- 
cles of light." Today we call them pho- 
tons. The Church was not pleased. At- 
omism challenged the doctrine of tran- 
substantiation, that wine can be trans- 
formed into the blood of Christ, Com- 
munion was more important than sci- 
ence. Particles were not a concept 
whose time had come. 

But atomism wouldn't go away, 
Isaac Newton also believed in atoms, 
envisioning them as hard, massy, im- 
penetrable particles. The English chem- 



ist John Dalton resurrected Democri- 
tus's word atom, declaring it to be the 
basic unit of each chemical element. It 
was a big step forward, except for the 
fact that Dalton thought oxygen, car- 
bon, hydrogen, and so on, were atoms 
in the Democritan sense— indivisible. 
He jumped the gun. As we know today, 
chemical atoms are full of other parti- 
cles: electrons, protons, and neutrons, 
and the latter two are further divisible 
into quarks and gluons. 

Perhaps the most intuitive insight 
into the nature of matter came from a 
relatively obscure Dalmatian Jesuit" 
named Ruggiero Giuseppe Boscovich. 
In 1763, he put forth the proposition 
that matter was composed of ele- 
mentary, particles that were in effect ge- 
ometric points. Instead of the massy par- 
ticles of Newton, Boscovich's particles 
were immaterial centers of force. De- 
mocritus envisioned a magical knife 
that he could sharpen and resharpen 
while cutting a piece of cheese into its 
constituents. Eventually, he said, you 
come to an invisible chunk that can be 
cut no further: 'the atom. But Democri- 
tus never speculated on just how small 
this indivisible particle would have to 
be. Boscovich answered that particles 
are points. A point is just a place; it has 
no dimensions. So an elementary par- 
ticle is just a point with a pull, accord- 
inglo Boscovich. It was an audacious 
idea. It was also a damn good one. 

The electron is one of the 12 ele- 
mentary particles that today we know 
make up the universe. Through the dec- 
ades, physicist: have measured the ra- 
dius of the electron with increasing ac- 
curacy. As the apparatus and experi- 
ments have improved, the measure- 
ments have shrunk and shrunk, In 1990, 
the radius of an electron was experi- 
mentally measured at less than 
.000000000000000001 inches. That's 
about as good a zero as physics can 
supply. The electron has several quali- 
ties, including mass, .electric charge, 
and spin. Obviously, there's something 
there. Yet every time the electron is 
measured, another zero or two is add- 
ed past the decimal. Its size creeps to- 
ward zero. Leon Lederman compares 
the electron to the Cheshire Cat. Slow- 
ly it disappears until all that's left is its 
smile — its spin, charge, and mass. 

It appears that an eighteenth-centu- 
ry Jesuit geometer was right. An ele- 
mentary particle has virtually no dimen- 
sion. Quarks are just the same. It isn't 
easy to find an object with zero radius. 

The Standard Model 

Sheldon Glashow was insistent; "It's got 
to be there. It's a certainty that it exists." 
He was talking about the top quark, and 



perhaps he is insistent because he has 
a lot at stake. Glashow is a Harvard Uni- 
versity theorist and is probably respon- 
sible more than any other physicist for 
the theoretical underpinnings of what's 
called the standard model, the para- 
digm that holds, among other things, 
that the universe past and present con- 
sists of 12 particles (six quarks, six lep- 
tons), which are driven by three forces 
(electromagnetic, strong force, and 
weak force). 

The standard model, says Lederman, 
is a crisp summation of everything we 
know about physics, from the time Gali- 
leo dropped two unequal weights from 
the Leaning Tower of Pisa to the last run 
of the Tevatron. That includes a lot of 
theory, a lot of discoveries, and a lot of 
physicists. Even so, Lederman calls 
Glashow "the hero of the standard mod- 
el" because of the pivotal theoretical 
work he did on the theory in the 1960s 
and 1970s. 

Most physicists agree with Glashow 
that the top quark has to be there — 
even the experimenters, whose goal in 
life is often to crush theories, not rein- 
force them. Burton Richter, the direc- 
tor of SLAC, the Stanford Linear Accel- 
erator Laboratory, when asked if the top 
exists, said simply, "It better." Richter 
is an old quark hunter himself, though 
SLAC is not involved in the top search. 
"I'm an experimenter," continues Rich- 
ter, "so I love to smash theories. But the 
whole edifice would collapse if there is 
no top quark." Richter believes Fermi- 
lab's recent candidates for the top 
quark are good events but that the lab 
is "not sure how many are back- 
ground." (They have reason to be care- 
ful. CERN, the European accelerator 
laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland, an- 
nounced it had found the top quark in 
1984. An embarrassing second look 
forced them to withdraw their claim.) 

Another accomplished quark hunter, 
Samuel C. C. Ting, like Richter, has con- 
fidence that the top will be snared. 
Ting is an MIT scientist working at 
CERN. While CERN dropped out of the 
race for top a few years ago because 
its accelerator cannot achieve the nec- 
essary energies, its experiments have 
helped pin down the range of possible 
masses for the missing quark— about 
157 GeV, says Ting, plus or minus 30 
or 40 GeV. "The top quark will be 
found," predicts Ting, "at Fermilab." 

Why such hoopla (and anxiety) over 
this sixth quark'' It's needed to fill in the 
final open slot in the particle picture of 
the standard model. The search for the 
12 elementary particles has been go- 
ing on for a century, although a hun- 
dred years ago scientists didn't know" 
how many they were looking for. 

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THE EVOLUTION OF STORYTELLING 



A CLIP FROM WARGAMES: DAVID LIGHTMAN (MATTHEW 



BRODERICK) SEES A BROCHURE OF A COMPUTER COMPANY 



PROMISING A QUANTUM LEAP IN GAME TECHNOLOGY COMING 



THIS CHRISTMAS ... BREAKS INTO A SYSTEM AND, THINKING 



IT'S THE GAME-COMPANY COMPUTER, ASKS TO PLAY GLOBAL 



THERMONUCLEAR WAR ... SEES ON TV THAT FOR THREE 



MINUTES SAC WENT ON FULL ALERT THINKING THERE HAD BEEN 



A SOVIET SNEAK ATTACK ... IS ARRESTED AND INTERROGATED 



BY DABNEY COLEMAN ... BREAKS BACK INTO THE SYSTEM 



AND ASKS THE COMPUTER, "IS THIS A GAME OR IS IT REAL? 



THE COMPUTER ANSWERS: "WHAT'S THE Olff ERENCE?" 



WarGames was released in the summer of 1983— more 
than ten years ago. In it, the Soviets were still the bad guys, 
the real-estate market had an unlimited upside, and when 
the kids in the movie used their computer to take a fantasy 
trip to Europe, they booked seats' on an airline called Pan 
Am. As this clip shows, one thing hasn't changed: People 
will go to great lengths to play the cool new game. 

I've spent a good amount of my professional life trying to 
tell stories that brought issues of emerging technologies to 
a large public. However, the vehicle for these stories has 
been the most traditional ot forms: the motion-picture narra- 
tive. Today, we're about to have at our fingertips new tools 
for- delivering entertainment experiences, We know these 
tools will allow us to play games that look and sound better 
than anything we've ever seen. We know they'll allow us to 
bring huge amounts of mul- 
timedia information into 
homes for educational and 
consumer use. We know 
they'll deliver existing films 
and TV shows and music. 
But what interests me, and 
most of my colleagues in 
films, is whether or not 
these technologies will 
give birth to a new kind of 
storytelling, one that incor- 
porates the interactive vis- 
ceral aspects of the game 
with the emotional values of 
the narrative. 

Since we're breaking 
new ground, we first have 
to come up with a way of 
thinking about these is- 
sues. We can start by ask- 
ing a basic question, 
which is, to paraphrase War- 
Games, : '\s it a game, or is 
it a story?" 

In terms of defining 
what is a game and what is 
a story, let's just say that 
games are nonlinear, open- 
ended, individually interac- 
tive entertainment experi- 
ences that are high on process— you do a lot — and low on 
content, while stories are linear, closed-ended communally 
interactive entertainment experiences in which process is sim- 
ple — you just sit there — but content tends to be complex. 

Why the focus on games? For one thing, the market de- 
mands it. In 1990, revenues from domestic theatrical box of- 
fices were about 5 billion dollars; revenues from interactive 
arcade games topped 7 billion. With numbers like these, we'd 
better understand what it is about games that seems to an- 
swer the entertainment needs of an entire generation. And 
a good way to start is to look at some trends in entertain- 
ment over the last ten years and see how certain technolog- 
ical innovations have already started to affect the way mov- 
ie and television stories are told. 

When WarGames was released, all those involved had 
huge expectations for the success of the .film. We were just 

50 OMNi 



catching a national wave of interest in technology and con- 
cern for the threat of nuclear war; our market research and 
test screenings went through the roof, and the studio really 
thought they had the next £ T And WarGames certainly was 
a success — it made about $80 million in domestic box of- 
fice and bettered that internationally — but it wasn't the run- 
away hit people hoped it would be. 

-Why? I think, despite its high-tech content, WarGames is 
the most traditional of narratives. It isn't a particularly com- 
plicated story, but it is something you have to follow from 
the beginning to end, The film's entertainment value derives 
more from the sequential unfolding of the narrative than 
from the visceral thrills or laughs of each moment, and, not 
surprisingly, it's less interesting the second time you see it. 
That summer, I heard teenagers interviewed on National 
Public Radio about movies 
they wanted to see. The 
kids talked about several 
new releases and about 
how you had to think 
about them and how when 
it came right down to it, 
they'd rather have a couple 
of beers and see Ghost- 
busters again. And why 
not? Being "slimed" a sec- 
ond time is almost as 
much fun as it is the first 
time; since its narrative is 
secondary to the visceral 
thrills or laughs of its indi- 
vidual moments, the enter- 
tainment value isn't dimin- 
ished by knowing what hap- 
pens next. In this way, it 
invites multiple viewing. 

Think about Batman, 
which I contend is less a sto- 
ry than an environment— 
a place somewhere in imag- 
inative space, cutting 
across languages and cul- 
ture, without narrative re- 
quirements, without charac- 
ter complexities. For $7.50, 
you were invited to hang 
out in the coolest place in the world. You could talk, you 
could come in at the beginning or .the end, you could day- 
dream, and the basic entertainment experience was iniact. 
You could check in on the story, and as long as Batman was 
chasing Joker or Penguin or Catwomah — like icons on a gi- 
ant arcade game — you knew where you were. Narrative com- 
plexity gave way to design complexity; story gave way to a 
sensory environment. 

Or consider Die Hard— with Bruce Willis skirting in and 
out of the corridors of the office building — a huge three- 
dimensional game board — trying to avoid being cut down 
by the terrorists. The film owes more to Pac-Man than to War 
and Peace. And don't get me wrong— Die Hard is a superb 
piece of popular entertainment. 

So what's happening here? Why is the public tending to 
embrace movies that make limited story demands? I think 




it's too simple to say we have a gener- 
ation with no attention span — rather, 1 
think that given we live in a world full of 
information and easy ways of access- 
ing it, we're developing a different kind 
of attention. Clearly, it all starts with tele- 
vision, and more specifically — with the 
remote control. 

The extent to which the remote con- 
trol has changed the way people 
watch TV came home with pathological 
clarity to me a few years ago when my 
wife found me in front of the TV late one 
night. We were in production at the 
time, and I was drained, so I had 
zoned out with the clicker in my hand, 
randomly going through 35 stations on 
my cable system. Then my wife noticed 
that the cable was out. 1 was randomly 
accessing 35 different kinds of snow. 
And I was totally absorbed. 

Television watching has become a 
random-access, interactive process, 
one of sampling bits of information at 
will as opposed to committing to a half- 
hour or hour of concentrated viewing. 
Beyond making the success of MTV 
and CNN poss ble as we I as the dread- 
ed infomercial — it has changed how tel- 
evision drama is conceived. Think of the 
breakthrough successes of the last dec- 
ade— Hill Street Blues, LA. Law, Thirty- 
something, St. Elsewhere. They all pre- 



sent a specrc emolional environ mem 
with multiple storylines and multiple char- 
acters which, rather than asking you to 
follow one narrative from beginning to 
end. invite you to check in on the pro- 
ceedings at will, In the best of these, 
narrative complexity has given way to 
character complexity — and with no dim- 
inution of quality; in fact, these shows- 
have given us some of the best televi- 
sion ever. Again, it's just a different 
kind of TV, one which allows the view- 
er to more freely interact with the show. 

You can even look at the proliferation 
of multiscreen theaters across the coun- 
try as evidence of a consumer tenden- 
cy toward random access. Why com- 
mit to go to one theater when you can 
go- to an environment that multiplies 
your choices. Think of the multiplex cin- 
ema as a large interactive system ihat 
allows the "user" to access movies or 
restaurants or stores at will. It's like a 
giant "clicker." 

What I'm suggesting is that certain 
technological innovations — such ascom- 
puters themselves, rapidly growing ca- 
b e systems, and, above all, the televi- 
sion remote control have started to 
change the way people take in informa- 
tion and entertainment — and that the 
movies and TV shows that have tend- 
ed to be the ~osl successful have al- 



lowed the viewer to interact freely and 
randomly with them and have not 
asked the viewer for a long-term — 
which in this context means a couple 
of hours — investment in a linear narra- 
tive. In short, they've been the movies 
that most operate like games. In this 
light, the gargantuan success of Juras- 
sic Park can be seen as a further step 
in this evoiution, that of movie as ride. 

Does this mean the film narrative is 
dead? In no way. There will always be 
the need for the predictability of narra- 
tive stories — if for no other reason than 
that life is a random event and stories 
Oi'ovide a s:ructJ,'co 'ospitc irom the un- 
o'edictab lity cf oir existence. '. here are 
times when we need to specifically not 
interact, when we need to sit back and 
be transported into another world. Be- 
sides, we've already seen artists- 
John Hughes and especially Tim Bur- 
ion come to mind — who have intuited 
this random, environmental trend in en- 
tertainment and incorporated it into the 
form of the traditional movie.. 

What I think this does mean, howev- 
er, is that our goal in exploring ways of 
■■.■vr ting for new interactive techno cges 
should not be to try to export or trans- 
late traditional narrative to them; as I've 
just shown, it's the technology that has 
changed trac :ional storytelling over the 
■ N PAGE 30 






JE3sbC %, 










* 



There was an essay by a man who had 
suffered injuries in a car crash caused 
by a drunken driver, which had ruined 
his life as a jazz musician. He hoped 
that future science could make him 
whole again. 

There was an essay by a woman 
who had sacrificed her creative ambi- 
tions in order to raise a family. She 
hoped that if she gained an extra 
lease on life, she'd have time for all the 
things she'd missed. 

There were hundreds more, all of 
them giving powerful, personal reasons 
for wanting to be frozen after death so 
that they mighl come back in the future 
and enjoy life anew. 

These were the essays submitted for 
Ihe Omni Immortality Contest, compet- 
ing for the prize of a free cryonic sus- 
pension. As the creator of the contest. 
and as one of the judges, it wasn't just 
my duty, but my pleasure to read what 
every single person had written — by 
hand, by typewriter, and by word proc- 
essor, on headed stationery or on pag- 
es torn from notebooks. 

I found that literally hundreds of peo- 
ple were so in love with life and so ex- 
cited by the future that they were not 
just willing, but eager to make this jour- 
ney into the unknown. Almost all of the 
essays were sincere, thoughtful, and 
highly personal, and they presented me 
with a very difficult problem: how to 
choose just one from so many. 



On one hand, I was naturally moved 
by pleas from AIDS victims or patients 
with cancer who felt bitterly deprived of 
their fair ration of life and were hoping 
for more, I was also touched by peo- 
ple who asked that the prize should be 
awarded to friends or relatives whom 
they felt were too valuable, too wonder- 
ful, to be lost in conventional death. 

I had to remind myself, however, of 
the fundamental truth of cryonic suspen- 
sion: It offers only a chance of future 
life, and no one knows how good a 
chance it is. I myself have made arrange- 
ments to be frozen after I die, but that 
doesn't mean I think it's a sure thing. I 
know that the freezing process causes 
cell injury which we cannot currently re- 
pair, and there's no guarantee that fu- 
ture technology will know how to fix it. 

Consequently, no one should imag- 
ine that the Omni Immortality Contest 
was an exercise in deciding who 
should live and who should die. The.win- 
nar will gain a ticket which may be. 
good for a one-way ride into the future. 
The rest of the entrants will be no 
worse off than they were before. 

Bearing this in mind, I tried to retain 
some- detachment as I read the hun- 
dreds of essays. But I found that even 
the calm, sober ones from healthy, hap- 
py people were often intensely moving. 
Many people were eloquent in their de- 
sire to fulfill future dreams. 

A man from Pasadena, California 



wrote, "The hope is to have the years 
and health to do what is impractical 
now: Explore the Amazon, know Shake- 
speare and Robert Burns, learn to play 
Mozart and Scott Joplin . . . travel the 
solar system and the stars t see man- 
kind scattered safely around the galaxy, 
pass on my knowledge and passion for 
life. The chance to do all this with my 
loved ones is overwhelming; to lose 
that chance, heartbreaking." 

Some essays were written by people 
who had no training in science, such as 
this from a woman in Hayden, Colora- 
do: "I am a simple, working-class farmer/ 
rancher with limited skills in computers 
and futuristic-type equipment, but I pos- 
sess the skills to survive in the real 
world. ... I would like the future gen- 
erations to know how to run a tractor, 
when to plant and harvest their crops, 
and how to survive without machines If 



And thisfrom a man in Seattle: "Our 
great-grandchildren, living in a world of 
wealth and ease generated by intelli- 
gent machines, will never believe how 
we shipyard workers built ships — with 
our hands, in the heat and cold, the 
smoke, filth, and stench, the screaming 
noise, and the danger of injury or 
death "at any step. Most of all, they'll nev- 
er believe the bone-deep weariness of 
this kind of toil, year after year after 
year. Maybe the best I can bring to the 
people of the future is the memories of 



AND THE WINNER' IS 



The following essay was selected as 
the winner of the Omni/Alcor Immortal- 
ity Contest. As the superb science fic- 
tion writer Charles Piatt points out in the ac- 
companying' article, we were inundated with 
fine, worthy essays, each with good reasons 
for selecting its- author as the winner. 

But there is about this entry a simplicity of 
desire and hopefulness that singled it out 
and- won tor its author a chance at being re- 
vived in the future. 

And now, at last, we'll let Immortality 
Contest winner James J. Baglivo speak for himself: 

1 am twenty-one .years old. When I was'ni'neieen,- 1 was 
involved in a very serious automobile accident. I was. grave- 
ly injured. Thanks to modern medical technologies and 
techniques, I survived. Modern technology, however, is 
unable to return my physical form to its once healthy 
state. I am sore each day and (most likely) will be until 
my. existence ends. (I have more, metal within my body 




i their silverware 



than most people have if 
drawers I) 

When I close my'eyes for the "final" time, 
i want to die with a smile on my face, both 
knowledge and hope in my heart. This smile 
will be brought about by both the knowledge 
that I will be cryonically suspended, and 
also by the hope that I will awaken healthy 
and healed, 

I look forward lo the future. I have-hope 
that it will not be the ignorant, opinionated, 
and prejudiced world of today, but rather an 
enlightened age. I carry no sad old traits as such in my 
heart and refuse to bring them with me. I will, however, 
bring knowledge of such things. To- know the mistakes of 
your forefathers is to prevent tbemfrorn happening again. 
I will bring with me hope; hope for my -future and hope 
for all the world. I will also bring love and understanding, 
the .two most important things I can bring. 

—James J. Baglivo 




Hugh Hixon is a biochemist. At 
the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, 
Hugh is developing techniques for 
suspending human life in such a 
way that it can he started again, decades or 
even centuries in the future. 

Today, doctors routine!}" revive patients who 
lack vital signs for an hour or more. Tomorrow, 
using nanotechnology (molecular machines 
capahle of repairing individual cells), medicine 
will have far greater capabilities. 

We look forward to a time when it should 

be possible to revive anyone whose brain 
still contains the information that 

defines personality and intelligence 
— regardless of other factors. And 
by that time, we believe science will 
have conquered the aging process. 

How can this help you? 
Through cryonics. 




This man 
wants to 
show you 

Pnfit*»n Cryontcs means 

I (— ■ freezing a patient 
J. IA- \* Li-X. \*s • so that future 

technology may give 
that person a new, longer life. Cryonics is a 
highly sophisticated medical procedure — but is 
easily affordable, if you pay the cost in 
installments, in advance. 

' At Alcor, we offer you a chance to achieve 
something that people have dreamed of for 
thousands of years: an unrestricted lifespan. 

We are the largest provider of 
cryonics sendees in the world. If you'd 
like to know more, call our toll-free 
number anytime: 800-367-2228. 

Our staff are always standing by. 
And if you have any technical 
questions, Hugh will be happy to 
answer them. 



Alcor Life Extension Foundation 

12327 Doherty Street, Riverside, California 92503 



Ihese times." But he also wrote, "Why 
be suspended at death? Because I 
love life! All of it!" 

There were also some essays by sci- 
entists, such as this man in Saratoga. 
California: "My hobby is collecting in- 
formation on "dead or dying branches 
of science, medicine, and engineering, 
such as fluidics, insulin shock, magnet- 
ic bubbles. . . . Most people familiar 
with these topics are either old or 
dead. . . . Knowledge of these obscure 
blind alleys in the early history of tech- 
nology may be useful in developing so- 
lutions to the problems, which will face 
society many years into the future." 

Some people didn't want cryonic sus- 
pension for themselves. A man in 
Ocoee, Florida, wrote, "A father 
should die before his children. If 1 
were chosen, I would choose to place 
the embryos of rare and endangered 
species in my place." 

And a man in Tarzana, California, 
urged thai his wife should be selected 
as the contest winner: "After 28 years, 
two children, and countless adventures, 
Alice has fulfilled all my expectations. 
I have not longed for any other exis- 
tence or place since being with her. I 
know that she would be thrilled to hope- 
fully come back in the future. Because 
of her wonderful disposition and fantas- 



tic memory, she would be an asset in 
the future world. Therefore, with Alice's 
approva . I highly 'ecommend her as a 
c£'vJ date, to represent our gererat on 
in the future." 

Most people who crtcred the contest 
were not religious, but a few Were, and 
they saw no contradiction between 
their religious faith 'and cryonics, 
These words came to us from Fort Lau- 
derdale, Florida: "I believe we all al 
reaoy have immorta ty, cryonics or not, 
but the freezing and revival of our bod- 
ies would allow our souls to return to the 
home we grew up in. where we found 
such love and joy." 

Several people were artists; some 
were musicians, A woman in Arizona, 
who directs a chamber orchestra, told 
us, "One live musician, frozen in time 
and space, is better than the finest syn- 
thesizer or recording ever made." 

Less serious entries included this 
one from Euless, Texas: "Perhaps I can 
bring humor to the future, for by the 
time they revive me, all Ihe jokes I've 
been telling will be funny again." 

And there were some skeptics. A 
man in Kailua, Hawaii, gently admon- 
ished us: "The purpose of every hu^ian 
being should not be to weasel into the 
future but to make the future worlh liv- 
ing. The present should be 




"We should approach it cautiously — it appears to.have an erratic orbit. " 



and not the machinations necessary to 
stow away to some distant time. ... If 
I were you, I'd pick the letter written in 
crayon by the child who was beaten the 
night before by his drunk father." 

Lastly — inevitably! — there were the 
weird ones. One essay seriously as- 
sured me that the man who wrote it had 
been born in the future, had time-trav- 
eled into our time, and was now strand- 
ed. He wanted to be frozen so he 
could get back home. Another man, 
who signed himself simply as "Frank," 
explained that he had a psychopathic 
urge to kill people and that since weap- 
ons of mass destruction would be 
more readily available in the future, he 
wanted to come back then so he 
could rack up a higher body count. 

My favorite Martian, however, was 
the one who told us that if he were fro- 
zen during an out-of-body experience, 
his astral body would remain permanent- 
ly free and could give us frequent re- 
ports on the condition of his frozen phys- 
ical body — "for centuries, if necessary." 

When all was said and done, I 
found two recurring themes in the es- 
says that I read. 

First, many people were acutely 
aware of the value of human experi- 
ence. To ihem, it seemed terribly waste- 
ful that a lifetime spent learning skills, 
acquiring information, and developing 
an understanding of life should all 
come to nothing: They wanted to pass 
their wisdom on to future generations 
so that it would not be lost. 

Second, many people were filled 
with excitement about the future, 
which they were sure would be a 
place of infinite possibilities. Trapped 
in the twentieth century, they felt they 
had been born too soon. They longed 
for a chance to experience the universe 
50 or a hundred years from now. 

These were the two messages that 
spoke most powerfully to me and influ- 
enced me in selecting a short list of po- 
tential winners, which I then compared 
with my fellow judges at Omni and at 
the Alcor Foundation. 

I hope you feel that our final decision 
was fair and appropriate. And to those 
who didn't win — well, this contest 
wasn't necessarily your only chance. Cry- 
onics is affordable to almost anyone 
who can take out a life-insurance poli- 
cy. Typically, the total cost of insurance 
plus membership in a cryonics organi- 
zation is under $1,000 per year. For 
more information, readers may contact 
Alcor at (800) 367-2228. 

Despite its uncertainties, I think- cry- 
onic suspension is a very special 
prize. And even if you have to finance 
it yourself, it isn't necessarily out of 
reach. DQ 



'V?'^ 






A MAN ON CRUTCHES 




KflTOJMMTO 



years ago when I flew out for 
al. I thought so m " ' 



. . _jntains. I could smell the 
Saturday morning. A woman on Wiltshire Boule- Later, I did 
vard seemed amazingly good looking, amazing- r 



mm 



signs. Instead l*m always taken by sl 
" i is the condition starts with 



hiking. When I had spoken 
in the phone, I had found my- 
irig in the cab, I was in a good mood. 1 was in a self asking her whether I could take som 
' forgiving, to consider for the first father's ashe: 
. ..., father might have been looking for place of mystical significance to me, I 
something when he moved out here. Always I had seemed delighted, started lo cry in fact, which 
thought about him running away, pushed instead embarrassed me. It's just that having organized 



wm 



A1NTING BY KENT WILLIAM 



if it were somehow pari of the funeral, a cathartic and nec- 
essary experience, perhaps. In order to get time off at short 
notice I told my supervisor the same story, leaving her 
touched by the impression that my father and I had taken 
many trips together up into the mountains. 

My life is full of such falsehoods, which doesn't make 
them easier to bear, In my hotel, I laid out my camping gear 
on the floor of my room. I replaced the bushings on my 
stove, and then I washed my hands. I took out my funeral 
clothes from the top compartment of my backpack — a gray 
wool suit. I put it on, knotted my tie, and stood looking at 
myself in the mirror on the back of the- bathroom door. I 
looked good in my suit, a fragile version of my father. In it 
I exhibited the only gift my father ever gave me, though even 
that had come diluted through my mother. I made faces in 
front of the mirror and rearranged my hair; always when I 
had come out to visit my father I had 
taken trouble with my looks, suspecting 
in some obscure way that this would of- 
fer a reproach to him. That it would 
make him miss my mother, and miss 
me. At home I didn't care. This suit was 
the only suit I owned, which made wear- 
ing it a kind of ritual. 

I washed my face and washed my 
hands again. The air in my hotel room 
had depressed me, but when I stepped 
out into the street I felt more optimistic, 
clean in my uniform, mixing effortlessly 
with Californians on the sidewalk. I 
found myself in a neighborhood where 
all the streets were named after East- 
ern colleges; my stepmother had giv- 
en me directions to the church. It was 
a ten-minute walk. As 1 came around 
the corner of Brown Street, I slowed 
down, I composed my face. 

My stepmother was waiting in a 
crowd of people. She was named Bar- 
bara: younger than my father, a dark- 
haired woman in her fifties, a writer for 
a feminist newsletter. In a previous dec- 
ade she had been a lawyer, and she 
was still active in environmental and left- 
ist causes, all of which did not keep her 
from more domestic accomplishments. 
She was a cook, a quiltmaker. In the crowd on the church 
steps she stood out, sleek in a dark cape and black leather 
boots — clothes which, despite their evident expense, nev- 
ertheless managed to bring some echo back from 1966, 
when she had lived on a commune in Colorado. I walked up 
towards her, ignoring everybody so that I could take my' 
place with her at the top of the hierarchy of bereavement. 
Tears glittered in her eyes; she reached out black-gloved 
hands and grasped hold of my thumbs. What was there to 
say? Not for me some vain condolence; I leaned down to- 
wards her, conscious of her smell — was it patchouli oil? Her 
almost poreless skin. 

"Jack,"she said. "I'm so happy you're here." She pulled 
me aside under the portal of the church. I shook my head. 
And it was lucky that my feelings were beyond words. Oth- 
erwise I might have been tempted to admit so much. I had 

64 OMNI 




not known, for example, that my father was a Lutheran. 

"I'd like you to say something," she said. "There'll be a 
time when some of the people who were closest to him ... I 
spoke to you about it over the phone." 

I remembered. I closed my eyes. "You probably brought 
something," she went on. "But I thought it would be nice if 
you could read a poem. You know that poem he used to 
love— 'Pied Beauty.' Hopkins always was his favorite poet." 
[ nodded. Yet I felt cheated, too. The category of "favorite 
poet" was not one I was aware had existed in my father's 
mind. Did this mean there might be other poets also, only 
slightly below Hopkins in his estimation? Who were they? Sap- 
pho? John Ashbery? Alexander Pope? 
"I'd like that," I said. 

"I'm so glad you could come," she said again. 
Half an hour iater I found myself at the pulpit reading a 
poem. Sometimes my voice cracked 
with emotion — a reflex. Between the stan- 
zas I looked out over the pews. There 
was a big crowd. My father had pro- 
duced industrial films. Mostly he had 
worked as a consultant, and I guess he 
knew a lot of people. I guess he had a 
lot of friends. I stared out at them. 

Later, I thought about what I saw 
from that pulpit. It is disjointed in my 
memory by the stanzas of the poem, 
and therefore it exists in my mind not 
as a continuum, but as a series of in- 
dependent images. I used to examine 
them, searching for a clue. My father 
was a prominent man. There had been 
an obituary in the' Los Angeles Times. 
Surely Jean-Jacques would have had 
a chance to see it, even if he hadn't 
called my father's office in the days af- 
ter his death. How could he have kept 
away? And so I used to examine those 
images in the church, over and over 
again as if they were a series of photo- 
graphs—the faces, the sad bodies, the 
rows of pews. Surely he is there some- 
where. For a while, when I was at my 
most compulsive, I did remember a fig- 
ure lurking at the back. Now I don't. 
Somebody once showed me how, in dif- 
ferent editions of a history textbook, the same photograph 
would appear, but changed somewhat, retouched somewhat, 
to illustrate some subtle new idea. In a crowd of men, skins 
would darken, and then grow white again. Hair would grow 
longer, and then short again, Women would appear, then 
disappear. Memory is like history. At one time it was imper- 
ative for me to see the figure of a man, hiding in the back 
behind a white column. Handsome in his suit. Sometimes I 
could even see his crutch. Memory is like history — it absorbs 
the needs of the present. Now he's vanished. 

After the ceremony I went to a reception at my step- 
mother's house, and I talked to some of my father's friends. 
Once I was back in the kitchen, looking for more ice, and 
Barbara was there, fussing with some strawberry tarts. 
"Jack," she said, "can you do something for me?" 
She looked toward 'he window and then back. "I was at 



your fath learing 

some stuff out. Eddy — that's his part- 
ner — says he's got copies of everything 
and the rest can go; But 1 feel bad 
about asking Elaine or someone to 
throw it all away, without a family mem- 
ber at least looking through it. It's all old 
files." She looked at me and blinked, 
but 1 said nothing. 

"I don't have to explain, do I?" she 
went on. "It tires me out. Your father was 
a wonderful man. I know it's been hard 
for you sometimes, but you should un- 
derstand — he really loved you." 

"I know that," I said. 

Then she was crying, and I went and 
put my arms around her. She was star- 
ing hard at one of the buttons of my 
shirt, inches from her eye. She balled 
up her fist and placed it carefully in the 
center of my chest. "It's business 
stuff," she saiti a (lor s pause. "The fur- 
niture's all rented. Just make sure I 
didn't miss anything personal. I put eve- 
rything in a box as you go in." 

My father had died suddenly, of a 
heart attack. My stepmother had been 
taking a bath, and had heard him cry- 
ing out. I pictured her naked, wet, shiv- 
ering, her arms around his glossy 
head. 

In her house there were no photo- 
graphs of him. I had walked around dur- 



ing the reception, trying to find one. Bar- 
bara had had her picture taken with the 
Berrigan brothers, people like that. But 
nothing with my father; in his office 
that evening, I picked a framed photo- 
graph out of the box by the door. 

He shared space with some lawyer 
friends in a one-story professional build- 
ing, not far from his house. I sat down 
at his desk with the photograph in my 
hands. It showed Barbara and him to- 
gether. She was wearing a low-waisted 
dress. Her braid hung down her back. 
She turned toward him, smiling. 

He, by contrast, looked raffish and un- 
kempt. He stared towards the camera 
with a puzzled expression on his face. 
His black hair was uncombed. He 
wore an Irish sweater and his big 
chest bulged importantly. 

I propped tie photograph on his blot- 
ter and sat looking at it for a little while. 
Why was his hair still so black? Perhaps 
it was one of the things that had united 
him to Barbara — the fact that both of 
them had retained their natural hair col- 
or long after most people, my mother 
for example, had turned gray. I remem- 
bered searching his medicine cabinet 
for hair dye when I was about sixteen. 
I had found nothing. 

It was cold in his office. I got up and 
pulled out a few drawers of his file cab- 




"And then in a manic high, I fly all over the world in just one night giving 
gifts, trying to please everybody!" 



inets, not knowing what to do. Every- 
thing was ns£t:y labeled — copies of sto- 
ryboards, records of old jobs. 

Elaine, my father's assistant, had 
showed me the dumpster in the park- 
ing lot when she had dropped me off. 
I started loading the files into some 
trash bags, which were"already half 
full. At first I was conscientious, glanc- 
ing through each folder. It started to get 
dark outside, and I turned on the light. 

I threw out everything from one cabi- 
net, but the bottom drawer was locked. 
My father had hired Elaine only two 
weeks before he died; she had given 
me his keys, but she didn't know what 
locks they fit. I picked through the ring 
and then sal down again. 

Now I can say I knew it, I knew it, I 
knew I had found something. And may- 
be Barbara, testing that drawer, had 
felt the same thing. Maybe that was why 
she'd gone away, unable to proceed. 
Memories of feelings are so colored by 
the lights thrown back on them; here, 
now, I can be sure I knew. I searched 
for the key for almost an hour. The win- 
dow to the parking lot was comp etely 
dark when I found it, hanging from a 
nail in the closet, high up above the 
door frame. I knew as soon as I 
touched it what it was. 

Almost I was afraid of finding some- 
thing inv a. So at firsi I eafed impat ent- 
ly through the models' head shots in the 
first part of the drawer. There was noth- 
ing distinctive about them except for the 
neatness with which they were ar- 
ranged — Male/Blonde, Femafe/Honde, 
Male/Dark, Female/Dark — each catego- 
ry in a separate hanging folder. 

But the drawer slid out and out. 
There were short stories in manuscript, 
creased in thirds, as if they had been 
sent through the mail. I thumbed 
through them, looking for the seamy 
parts— one was full of hard homosexu- 
al imagery. It was a story about a fa- 
ther chastising his young son. 

I found a manilla envelope contain- 
ing pages and pages of small notations, 
all in my father's printing. "F.H., 11/2/ 
79, 1pm? #3 only"— the dates went 
back fifteen years, More photographs 
in another envelope, snapshots this 
time. All women, all ages, some naked, 
most not. I recognized some people 
from the funeral, also Elaine. She was 
standing in the woods, a red sweater 
tied around her waist. 

The final two folders in the drawer con- 
tained letters from a single correspon- 
dent, and what looked liked copies of 
my father's replies. At first I was excit- 
ed, and repulsed also to find myself in 
such company — the first file was la- 
beled "Letters: Jack." There were hun- 
dreds of them, and it took me a while 



to decide that they were not from me. 

My fathers' contained no salutation 
or signature, just a solid block of text, 
often without paragraphs. The other 
man sometimes wrote, by hand; the 
first letters were in a childish script, and 
they were difficult to read. Difficult even 
to glance at— I leafed forward to the 
spring of 1982, when he started using 
a typewriter. He said, "Dear Jerry," 
which had been my father's nickname. 
Once: "Dear Father," Once: "Dear 
Dad." One was signed, "Your loving 
son." "Your loving son, Jack." 

This was a game they'd played, per- 
haps in place of sex — a make-believe 
father, a make-believe son. "Dear Dad," 
■ one letter read. "I'm happy to have got 
the chance to see you when you were 
in town. I'm still excited from your visit, 
and I don't have so much to say, only 
that I'm glad you had a chance to see 
the apartment, and see I was not be- 
ing so extravagant. I know you will al- 
ways think I spend my money on expen- 
sive things, so I'm glad you could be 
with me and share my life, if only for one 
night. Next ti^e you should slay for long- 
er. Dinner was delicious. I haven't had a 
r T,ea like that since the semester started." 

The box by the door included an un- 
opened phone bill; I had seen it as I 
came in. My stepmother had put it 
there, intending, I suppose, to pay it lat- 
er. I retrieved it now and cut it open — 
pages of long-distance calls, many to 
.a single number in Oakland. My father 
had accepted collect calls from the 
same phone, sometimes twice a day. 

I sat back in my father's chair. And 
this is the part I don't remember well — 
I sat there a long time. I'd like to think 
that I was shocked, disgusted, hurt, but 
I don't think it's true. Only I was looking 
at my father's phone, imagining his 
hand on the receiver, his lips so close 
to it — how many times? Nothing re- 
mained ol any words that he had said. 
There was no mark on the plastic — I 
don't remember dialing the number, bul 
then I was.eu.ing it ring until an answer- 
ing machine picked up. "This is 964- 
3187," it said. "If you'd like to leave a 
message for Jean-Jacques Brauner, 
please do so after the beep," 

I hung up and continued reading. 
The last folds'" was labeled, "Letters; 
Jack (II)." And then, as if an after- 
thought, "My only son" — the words print- 
ed just like that in my father's intolera- 
bly precise hand. 

"I'm sorry," Jacgues wrote in 1987. 
"I know how angry you are. But I just 
wish you'd say it instead of brooding. 
If I was there you could just show me 
and get it over with, but I'm not, so you'll 
just have to. ..." 

TO which my father had answered: "I 



think you're making a mistake, Eric is 
your boss; he's the one that you 
should worry about. Joanne's not in a 
position to harm you, so her opinion 
doesn't matter. I know you always 
want to accommodate everyone, but it's 
a trait that gets less charming as you 
age. You may pretend you're trying to 
be nice, but really, it's a form of inse- 
curity and self-hate. I'm telling you this 
because I know. . . ." 

When my father was dying, when he 
was actually dying in my stepmother's 
arms, was this the image in his mind? 
Me with this file of letters, sitting in his 
chair? Or Barbara? "I'm sorry to hear 
about Barbara's operation," Jacques 
wrote in 1989. "It must be very depress- 
ing to her. No matter how much you try 
to convince yourself that these things 
aren't important, it alters the way you 
think of yourself, like wrinkles, or losing 
your hair, though of course much 



tWhen my father 
was dying, when he was 

actually dying 

in my stepmother's arms, 

was this the 

image in his mind? Me 

with this file 
of letters, in his chair?? 



worse. It's funny, it feels like I know her 
very well, enough to reassure you that 
I know she'll be all right, and that you're 
worrying about nothing. . . ." 

I dialed the Oakland number again. 
The man's voice was pleasant, his in- 
tonation slightly strange, not quite-Amer- 
ican, perhaps. After the beep I said, "Lis- 
ten, this is Jack Modine. I don't know 
how to say this, and maybe you already 
know, but my father had a heart attack 
on Thursday morning. I just wanted to 
tell you, and to ask you please not to 
send any more letters, because I don't 
want them forwarded to my stepmoth- 
er. As I say, it was very sudden, and 
he wasn't in any pain." 

I paused for a moment — it seemed 
so strange. I also have a tendency to 
accommodate, not that my father had 
ever remarked on it. "Don't worry 
about anything," I said. "I'm telling you 
because I guess you cared about him. 
If you want to know more, I'll be home 
after the fifteenth. My number is . . . ," 
I said, and J gave him the number of 
my apartment in Meridan. 



I called him again a few weeks later 
and then a few times after that. I never 
got the answering machine again, and 
I never said anything either, I would 
just listen to him go, "Hello? Hello?" and 
then he would hang up. After a while 
he disconnected his phone. But I can 
remember at least one time, when I was 
at the height of my craziness, I sup- 
pose—I dialed his number just to listen 
to the recorded message from the 
phone company. 

I look back on that from a life which 
is, if not happy, at least regular, at 
least full of a routine, And it contains, I 
feel sure, some of the ncrodienls of hap- 
piness. Now I am able to isolate them — 
friends. Sex. Work. I have hopes that 
someday I will learn to mix them in cor- 
rect proportions. But I was desperate 
then, and part of the reason was that 
everything I had discovered about my 
father seemed unreal so quickly. I 
threw it all into the dumpsfer. The un- 
known, beating heart of my father's life— 
I threw it in the garbage. I didn't even 
read most of the letters. 'Late that 
same night I got up from the bed in my 
hotel ard get dressec. I hac some idea 
of finding the bus station and waiting 
there until morning, but instead I 
walked around the streets of Santa Moni- 
ca, trying to retrace the way back to my 
father's office. I wanted to look over his 
letters again. I wanted to go through 
them and read- over where he men- 
tioned me — I remembered once I went 
out to visit him and Barbara. He came 
down into the kitchen at three o'clock 
in the morning, to find me watching TV, 
and he took me to an all-night hamburg- 
er stand somewhere. "The best egg 
creams in California," he said. Surely, 
I thought, he would have told Jacques 
about thai. I remembered the date, or 
at least the year. 

I didn't find the office again. The vial 
of ashes Barbara gave me — I threw it 
away too. By the time I got back to Meri- 
dan that phone number in Oakland was 
the only thing left, and when I found out 
it had been disconnected, I felt as if 
some essential link had been de- 
stroyed. A link to urgent knowledge — 
now it seems obvious. Now it seems 
easy to say where my trouble really start- 
ed. In the absence of facts, in the ab- 
sence of anything to hold on to, I be- 
gan to imagine a whole world, 

And the moving spirit of that world 
was Jean-Jacques Brauner. From the 
beginning, of course, I had been think- 
ing about him, trying to make a picture 
of him in my mind. Or rather, not trying — 
the picture came by itself, and I found 
myself looking at it, hour after hour. It 
was so clear, I began to think it must 
be founded on something, some snap- 




IRJTERVieiAJ 

HE THINKS OF THE EVOLUTION OF 

ROBOTS IN BIOLOGICAL 

TERMS: "WE SHOULD CREATE 

DOZENS OF ROBOT 

UTTERS, CARRYING THE FITTEST 

IDEAS FORWARD." 

PHOTOGRAPHS BY ROBERT CLARK 



iter working all night in his tiny, frigid basement workshop at Carnegie 
Mellon University, Professor Red Whittaker torqued down some 
last bolts on his new robot. A few hours away on this winter morning 
in 1984 was the final test run of his reconnaissance vehicle. Whittaker was 
about to send his robot on a mission into the Three Mile Island (TMI) nuclear 
plant to explore the deadly radioactive basemenl of the Unit 2 reactor building, 
The robot would send back the first murky-green pictures, as if from another 
planet. Meanwhile, at the computer center across the campus, a preeminent 
robotics theorist was putting his little machine Neptune through its paces, it 
trundled down a hallway in search of a teacup to retrieve. 

From Ihe start, William "Red" Whittaker has eschewed the academic mode of 
building a few toylike robots and writing papers about them. He has made 



.mobile devices as rugged as Maytag washersahd pushed 
them out of the lab to do real work. "In moving through the 
world, they must. cope with the unexpected," he said, "and 
their intelligence will evolve." By 1986, desperate for more 
lab space, Red saw the shell of a building the trustees had 
purchased from the Bureau of Mines. Late one night, he 
kicked in the. door, claiming squatter's rights for the Field 
Robotics Center (FRC) he now directs. His corner office 
looks out on a courtyard, where his machines exercise. 

Vaguely resembling a six- 
foot-tall bug with- eight purple- 
legs, his latest piece of 
work, Dante, is a rock climb- 
er. Sensors in the tips of its 
spindly legs find footholds, 
and Dante uses a rope to rap- 
pel. More remarkable. Dan- 
te itself decides where to 
step and how to pick its way. 
Funded by NASA and the Na- 
tional Science Foundation, it 
was built to take instruments 
into the volcano Erebus on 
Ross Island, Antarctica: 

' After'Chri.stmas.1992, Whit- 
taker and his team huddled 
In a primitive hut 500 feet 
from the 12,350-foot summit. 
A fiber-optic tether linked 
■computers and TV monitors 
to Dante, crouched at the fum- 
ing crater's rim. At Red's com- 
mand, the creature slowly 
came to life, rising to take lis 
first tentative steps of the de- 
scent. One day, Dante's 
heirs will explore Earth's po- 
lar icecaps and venture into 
the canyons of Mars: 

■Dante's forebear— Am- 
bler — was the world's first ro- 
bot to take steps on its own. 
Red created it for NASA as 
the prototype of a planetary 
superrover. Resembling two Snap-On tool chests 
on six chrome stilts, Ambler is a huge machine. It 
a height of 16. feet by raising its- body on a. chain drive in- 
side each stilt to step over boulders or out of crevasses like 
those on Mars. Calculating 90 seconds before taking a 
step, it chooses its path with meticulous care. 

In Red's Pittsburgh warehouse on a recent Sunday, the 
dolly for an. acetylene torch leans against a computer con- 
sole: A dozen machines stand in varied stages of their evo- 
lution- A therma.l-tile inspector for NASA sits under a mock- 
up of the space shuttle underbelly. Whittaker pauses at a 
self-driving cart created to haul Dante over rugged terrain 
from base camp to Erebus's peak. The cart looks like an off- 
road dragster, with aggressive. tires mounted on eight big 

■ 74 OMNI 




wheels, dual chrome tail pipes'. "You should see this thing 
go," he says. 

Whittaker has assembled a gung-ho team' of robot build- 
ers: mechatrqnic wizards, computer hackers, tinkerers: "The 
bald and the hairy, the young and the old," he says. "An 
engineer to cut twenty thousand lines of clean software and 
a knuckle scraper to bolt up a ton of iron." The team welds 
theory, artificial intelligence, sensors, and gears into entities 
that go out on the job: unmanned coal excavators, submers- 
ible sewer cleaners, autono- 
mous-trucks hauling rock at 
strip mines, rovers to map 
nuclear-waste burial sites. 

As a teenager in Holli- 
daysburg, Pennsylvania, Whit- 
taker laid railroad track and 
did construction work. After 
high school, hitchhiking to 
New York one afternoon, he 
was dropped off at Princeton 
University. The next day he 
enrolled. From there, he 
went to Carnegie Mellon for 
a doctorate in civil engineer- 
ing and stayed on to teach. 
At 46, he still has some hair 
with a hint of the color that 
gave him his name. Tall and 
strongly built, he opens a 
door. "Lefs go this way," he 
directs, "it's the same num- 
ber of steps." Red's thinking 
like one of his robots again. 
I first met Red ten years 
ago, reporting for Omni on 
the small army of technicians 
gathered to clean up TMl. 
Having driven his new ma- 
chine to.the plant himself, he 
was halted by the. gatehouse, 
guard who doubted that in 
the back of his truck was the 
world's first robot mobile work- 
er. But over the next five 
years, it and its progeny labored tirelessly as vital partners 
of the engineers who rescued TMl. When I saw the robot in 
a warehouse, on the island, its stainless-steel fittings glisten- 
ing in the fluorescent light, it looked at me with the deep, 
dark eyes of its cameras. Red's creatures back then didn't 
exhibit intelligent behavior, yet this one seemed staunchly 
resolute, as if waiting to prove that it could do the job. 

— Paul Bagne 

Omni: Why did you create Dante? 

Whittaker: To show that robots have the skills to explore in 
some of the harshest conditions on Earth, as a stepping 
stone to the planets, and to give Earth scientists new tools 
for studying active volcanoes. To get data to predict erup- 



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tions or learn how volcanoes intGract 

with the atmosphere, scientists must get 
up to the rims and down into the smok- 
ing craters. At Erebus, volcanologist Phil- 
ip Kyle and his team wanted to get gas 
samples and take measurements at in- 
terior vents and at the surface of the 
rare lava lake 700 feet down. Human 
climbers attempted this twice, but 
each time they were driven out by erup- 
tions. Once as they lowered a team 
member by rope to within 30 meters of 
the lake, Erebus let lose a storm of fly- 
ing rocks that could have killed him. Dan- 
te's mission was to go where human ex- 
plorers could not. " 
Omni: Why did other roboticists doubt 
you could build such a machine? 
Whittaker: We'd proposed to create a 
robot wilh extraordinary capabilities in 
ten months. With fundamental problems 
on every front — perception, reasoning, 
and locomotion — we were really hang- 
ing our tails out there. I even had re- 
volts in my own shop. My experts were 
adamant that machine perception 
must fail in the bright, featureless envi- 
ronment of the Antarctic. Some critics 
doubted we could even get the thing 
to walk. When I said it was also going 
to reason about handling a rope, they 
just shook their heads. I countered 
that we had to have more faith in our 
technology, that one day we'll have to 
send the robots off, like children, into 
the world. 

Omni: Do you remember what Dante's 
first steps were like? 
Whittaker: I watched it from the crater 
edge. At first, it was calibrating, testing 
out its sensors and computer models of 
the terrain, checking to see that every- 
thing was working. Its motions were ten- 
tative as it came alive. Dante was 
nosed down at 45 degrees. While the 
terrain out front appeared level 
through its cameras, it knew from oth- 
er sensing that it was steep, yet it had 
no fear in looking down a volcano. 
Same's true in nuclear settings where 
humans get rattled. Taking radiation 
doesn't matter to the machine. 

Dante nexl chose to lift its body up 
high to get a better view. Soon it was 
stepping ahead confidently, reaching 
out and planting one foot, then anoth- 
er — like a rafter: planting a pole— to 
pull its body forward. It was thrilling to 
see Dante choosing its path and foot- 
falls, using the rope as it rappelled. 
Omni: What went wrong? 
Whittaker: We designed Dante to use 
a lightweight climbing rope with a hair- 
thin optic fiber at the center. From an 
onboard reel, it plays this rope out as 
does a spider. A month before we left 
for Antarctica, we saw we weren't get- 
ting enough data through this filament. 



Unable to remake the tether in so short 
a time, we appended a separate fiber- 
optic line, wrapped like kite string that 
unreeled as the robot progressed. It 
seemed simple, worked in tests, and we 
were off to Erebus. As the robot 
climbed into the crater we started los- 
ing data. After descending 21 feet, the 
line kinked again and snapped. Dante 
was cut off from the main computer in 
the hut and couldn't go on. The failure 
of the tether was like getting a flat tire 
in a new car. 

All machinery onboard — computers, 
sensing, and control — were functioning. 
One of us climbed down to the robot 
and hooked in a hand-held terminal. Dan- 
te's inherent ability to climb with the 
rope had survived. We talked about let- 
ting it climb back up on its own but de- 
cided we had to make certain it got 
back safely. We commanded the robot 
to lift up so we could slide a sheet of 
plywood underneath it. Rather igno- 
miniously, it sat down on the board and 
lifted its legs. Then we dragged it up 
with a rope and winch. 
Omni: What will become of Dante? 
Whittaker: Just after Erebus, eight vol- 
canologists were killed in South Ameri- 
ca at the rims of two volcanoes that 
blew up in their faces. Suddenly the dan- 
ger of this work really hit home. Re- 
searchers planning to enter an active 
volcano in the Alaskan range, who'd 
heard of our project, asked NASA to 
fund a mission for Dante to climb into 
Mount Spurr. So humans will not have 
to risk their lives, Dante and my team 
will be off to Alaska next summer. We're 
reworking the tether and designing in 
more autonomy, so if Dante is cut off 
from the main computer or faces other 
problems, it can still go on to accom- 
plish some objectives. 
Omni: What is the new machine you've 
proposed for NASA? 
Whittaker: This field-worthy planetary 
rover builds on new technologies. Akin 
to Dante in appearance — buglike — it's 
solar powered and uses miniaturized, 
hardened components. Project manag- 
ers at NASA say, "Crawling into a vol- 
cano is cute, but so what?" They want 
a machine to cope with problems as 
they arise, traverse a thousand kilome- 
ters, and withstand Marslike conditions. 
For this robot, we will really tighten the 
rules of the game: from the tempera- 
tures to the light levels to the telemetry 
of an actual Mars mission. We're impos- 
ing on ourselves a standard of reliabili- 
ty that's a leap forward. This machine 
will walk alone through the Dry Valleys 
of Antarctica. 

I'll put down 1,000 miles of footprints 
and do whatever it takes to convince NA- 
SA that a robot can explore Mars. It has 



as much to do with machine decision 
making and control as it does with hard- 
ware. A robot Will fail just as directly by 
making the wrong intellectual move- 
like entrapping a leg or losing balance 
at the edge of a cliff — as it will from a 
component breaking down. Looking 
through a monitor at a teetering ma- 
chine, you want to reach out and grab 
it — you go right for the joystick. But in 
honest simulation, since the signal 
takes so long to get from Mars, by the 
time you see it, that bad step is some- 
thing that happened 15 minutes ago. 
For planetary exploration, machine self- 
reliance and autonomy is critical. Hu- 
mans can't be there to help. 
Omni: Are machines now capable of ex- 
ploring the moon and planets? 
Whittaker: Robotics has sped off like a 
bullet train. To reach out and grasp the 
advances in our science and technol- 
ogy would rip your arms out! Not so 
long ago, it was a big deal to drop a 
shoebox of gadgets on the surface of 
a planet and get back some pictures 
and weather reports. Robots now can 
walk, climb, and reason. Humans 
couldn't risk descending steep canyon 
walls or climbing along lava tubes. A ro- 
bot could. Sending robots is about one- 
hundredth the cost of sending astro- 
nauts. The ethical constraint of getting 
humans back makes you take along a. 
rocket to get off the surface, extra fuel, 
radiation shielding, oxygen tanks, and 
redundant hardware. That mass costs 
money to launch. And we could send 
many robots 

Omni: How soon could an advanced ex- 
plorer robot go? 

Whittaker: We could put a rover on the 
moon within a few years, on Mars with- 
in five years. If NASA formulated a mis- 
sion, we'd integrate the robot with the 
launch system, spacecraft, and lander. 
Do the science people wan! a core sam- 
ple?. We'd need a machine capable of 
drilling. What instruments and payloads 
must the machine carry? We'd devel- 
op and prototype the robot quickly, 
then push the things we want to do bet- 
ter. Instead of settling for camera vision 
that's already space qualified, we'd go 
after laser scanning. We'd push for ro- 
bot autonomy because it absolutely de- 
fines what can be accomplished— how 
far the machine can range and the 
work it can do. We'd connect with ex- 
perts in space telemetry, composite ma- 
terials, and so on, from universities, in- 
dustry, and NASA. 

Omni; Why do you say science should 
not be the only motivation for a plane- 
tary mission? 

Whittaker: I want to put a roaming eye 
on Mars or the moon, take a rover that 
could range a few thousand kilometers, 



give it high-re.~oi._ii..c"i sisieo cameras 
and microphones to telecast the won- 
ders of being on another world right in- 
to our living rooms — a space mission for 
the people. Typical Mars scenarios driv- 
en by planetary scientists have bur- 
dened robotics initiatives. The rover sam- 
ple-return mission. NASA's big motivat- 
ing program for the Eighties, was finally 
killed because scientists wanted to 
search for water under Martian polar 
caps, extract helium 3, and put gam- 
ma spectrometry on board. Biologists 
said we couldn't shake up or heat the 
sample, so we couldn't use a drill. To 
get it back, we needed a rocket, fuel, 
and orbital gymnastics. It got so com- 
plicated and expensive that it couldn't 
be done. 

Let's say science is the reason we 
go. I can't think of a richer source of da- 
ta than a two-year telecast by a rover. 
Scientists could learn more by process- 
ing this video stream than from exam- 
ining samples. A roving camera could 
drive up to an exposed canyon wall and 
study it for weeks. A robot with arms 
and manipulators like a field geologist 
could crack open rocks and look inside. 

Exploring Earth was such a gradual 
thing: Discovering the continents, cross- 
ing the Atlantic, climbing the Himalayas 
had nothing to do with scooping up a 
soil sample. It had to do wiih being 
there. Machines can roam and discover 
things for decades. The first explorers 
to ascend volcanoes, wander through 
the valleys of ancient rivers, scale can- 
yon walls of Mars will be robots. Of 
course, the robot is not going to Mars 
to decide on its own what to do, say, 
to set the record for machine speed walk- 
ing. It's there to do our bidding. 
Omni: What's your idea for an integrat- 
ed space robot? 

Whittaker: The usual scenario has a lan- 
der touching down. The doors pop 
open, ramps come down, and off 
drives the buggy. The lander is the big 
guy with the structure and solar panels, 
radio and footpads. It just stands 
there. Since these components are the 
same ones the robot needs, why not 
just have one machine that flies to the 
planet, explores, and does science? 
The computer you use to fly and land 
is the same one you use to rove. 
Omni: Did the idea of a huge rover like 
Ambler walking across Mars come to 
you in a dream? 

Whittaker: Here's a planet with boulders 
a meter high, so the robot should be 
tall enough to step over them. Research 
on Mars will often take size and force: 
One digs with a backhoe, drills from a 
platform, or gets up high to take a pic- 
ture. For many reasons, bigger is bet- 
ter, but I'm not absolutely committed to 

CONTINUED ON PAGE 96 



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AfUTinnATTER 

UFO UPDATE: 

UFOers kicked up their heels with rock star Richie Havens 

at New York's hip Village Gate 



the audience to realize that i 



iBfiiiiiB 



health of our society.' 



Setting the torn 
dary rock star Ric 
In a surprise appe 




vens opened the 
a rendition of "B 
Tracks." "1 contac 
because he has e 




L' *^ — .LI— 


ny sighting: 
explains fes 



anakis of Hudson, 
usetts, for instance. 




And judging from the c 



lue. The artworks, rani 
....... | price from $45 

sand dollars, "..„... 

To Luckman, Havens represents the wave of been placed in several major art collections across 
things to come. "Entertainment is the vehicle for reach- the c 
ing the public," Luckman declares. "Festivals like The conference also premi 

"3 represent a future wave upon which new mem- films: Are We Alone?, a one , 

-c nf thp 1 ifd rnmmi mitv mn ririo " based on the book Genesis Revisited by Zecharia 

Sitchin, and UFOs: Top Secret, a commentary on sight- 
n to Havens, those ings in the former USSR. 

)up," Whatdid attendees thinkof the festival? Ant" 
-forming Brazil and Catherine Lee of Manhattan, thei^ ... 

...,,.„.. ,«i scfted* hopes of meeting some abductees, said they had a 

uled for release early next year. The crowd thrilled to great time; Chuck Walker, a real-estate broker from 
the title song. "Abduction": Gray figures in the stitl of Port Washin"*"" ' ■ ■■ 

the night / Flying saucers in and out of sight Mad dog good.smallc_ . 
barking at the side of the road You're paralyzed and told me I'd have a UFO experience in Peru." As far 
control. /Abduction, taken against your will. / L 

jn. was it more than a thrill. 

As it turns out. ALOID'S haunting lyrics set the ultir 

■ " } upstate New York."— ANITA BASKIN 



mm 



3or emeritus of psycl 
:.■■:■■■ &uv. "The play," said Mun U \ 



Long Island "Abducti 



£x n i^rifin/ ^. i i r*"t e 





FETUS FANTASY 



j, the 

tee OF THE PRINT KIND t 



if you're an E.T. living h 

on Earth, you've probably I bou 



CHEN SAYS ALIENS CONTACTED HER AT 2:0C 
toUFOs. A.M., HEATING HER HEAD AND 



; theor 
srsinger asked 1 06 



alien impregnation are enly attributed to 
:atlv exaqgerated, pregnancy. Surprisingl 

' false. Ac- 22 percent said ' 



I ,■..,, ...jin-.v born publisher Chen an 

thanks to the entrepre- to keep the quarterly 

urial efforts of Man- r 

:h, California, 
■k- | publisher Irene Ya 

Chen, 31, you have t 

i turn: "But right m 

"" dto being here 
Is olanet to work 
and learn." 



hat false Persinger found, 

= tended to hold mc. , . ,.. , 

viously I unusual beliefs in phe- I years ago after extrater- I believes 



Picture an animal that 

combines the feature- ui 



that 

lion years ago. Cc 




say they don't know I 
to structure their day. 



Reading your daily horo- about running the astrol- 



Claims of the Paranor- are in the 
mal (CSICOP) i 
think so. In 



itly found in Viet- 
I nam's remote Du Qu 



Hanoi. The strange ! 



„. i of the 

World Wildlife Fund. 
I Although locals knew 



I wdb unki 
until MacKinnon and 
a team of Vietnamese re- 



■yx skull in a 
Titer's hut. So far, tf 



__.yx — but they have 
not yet 

According to MacKin- 
. DNA 



THE OXLIKE CRITTER 

BELOW 

DEERLIKE FACE GLANDS, 

DAINTY FEET, AND 

20-INCH-LONG HORNS. 

20-inch-long horns. 



je remained 
pristine for tens of mii- 



■ Coleman of Port- 
, "MacKin- 
; prove 
: could be other 
I animals stil! living in un- 
charted parts of the 
I earth." — Sherry Baker 



CSICOP has thus 
"^nvinced only 60 edi- 

. ._:sto runthedisciaime 

skeptics group is urging The majority, like the 
newspapers to print Atlanta Constitution's r. ._. 

this disclaimer: The foi- aging editor John Walte 
lowing astrological say it's not l 

1 "Most i 



THE LAST 



C.Cit-r niiF "; r i-:OM 7'!.r\- .1 



The leptons came iirsi. In 1897, J. J. 
Thomson, an Englishman, discovered 
the first elementary particle, the elec- 
tron. Physicists at Ihe time amused them- 
selves by building cathode-ray tubes: 
three-fooi-long glass tubes filled with 
gas, with metal e : ectroces at either end. 
Electricity from a battery would be ap- 
plied and the tubes would glow (neon 
signs work the same way). As early as 
1830, Michael Faraday had predicted 
that electric current was made of indi- 
vidual corpuscles. Thomson proved it, 
' showed that the cathode ray in these 
tubes was composed of particles, elec- 
trons. The next elementary particle to 
be found was the muon. It was also a 
lepton, a heavy cousin of the electron— 
200 times heavier to be exact. The 
year was 1937, and physicists used a 
cloud chamber to detect the muon's 
presence in cosmic rays, Its-purpose in 
the _ir vo;oo was s groat o_.ii ■: -:■■"" ." 
the i.ime. ~ne ohysicis. is:a:- '-■:-:: .: 
on hearing of the discovery, said. "Who 
ordered that?" The neutrino, another ten- 
ton, was discovered using a nuclear re- 
actor in 1956, and a second neutrino. 
the muon neutrino, was discovered us- 
ing an accelerator in 1962 by a team 
that included Lederman. 

The quarks, a second variety of un- 
cuttable elementary particles, came lat- 
er. The up, down, and strange quarks 
were found in the late 1960s at SLAC 
by bouncing electrons off protons and 
"feeling" the smaller constituent parti- 
cles inside. The fourth, the charm 
quark, made headlines around the 
world, independently discovered in the 
same weekend in November 1974 by 
two different teams — one at SLAC ted 
by Richter; the other at Brookhaven Na- 
tional Laboratory on Long Island, led by 
Ting. The charm quark had been pre- 
dicted by a number of theorists, includ- 
ing Sheldon Glashow, and Richter and 
Ting's experiments corv need all doubt- 
ers that quarks were real. Totally un- 
predicted was a Ihird generalion of mat- 
ter. Lederman found the filth quark, 
called bottom (or beauty) at Fermilab in 
1977. Martin Perl found its accompany- 
ing lepton, the tau, at SLAC. 

When you add to the above the vari- 
ous bosons — messenger particles that 
represent the three forces — you have, 
voila, the standard model (see chart). 
It's all very neat. The first generation of 
matter con. sirs those particles that are 
found naturally in our present universe: 
up and down quarks, electrons, neutri- 
nos. We stick up and down quarks to- 
gether to make protons and neutrons. 

82 OMNI 



Add electrons to make the atoms of the 
chemical elements. Neutrinos lubricate 
various essential reactions. For exam- 
ple, the sun wouldn't shine without neu- 
trinos, which it spews out in such quan- 
tity that a billion penetrate your body 
each second. 

The second generation also contains 
four particles: two quarks, the strange 
and the charm, and two leptons, the 
muon and muon neutrino. These parti- 
cles existed in a much earlier universe. 
Today we have to make them in accel- 
erators or observe them in cosmic-ray 
collisions. 

The third generation is also from the 
ve?y early universe and includes the bot- 
tom and top quarks, the tau and the tau 
neutnno. Tnere's but one problem with 
this neat picture: The top quark, as dis- 
cussed, is missing. If you look at the 
standard model chart, your intuition 
should swiftly tell you that it must exist. 



6l'm an 
experimenter. I love to 

smash 

theories. But the whole 

edifice 

would collapse if 

there 
is no top quark. 9 



Our human sense of symmetry cannot 
tolerate an asymmetrical theory. A fam- 
ily (generation) of matter with only one 
quark while the others have two 
_juarks offends our sense of aesthetics. 

But there are more technical reasons. 
"People have tried to figure out a 
world in which the top quark doesn't ex- 
ist." explains Glashow. "No one can do 
it." If this quark must exist, why is it so 
hard to find? Glashow compares the 
top quark to Pluto. The existence of the 
ninth, and final, planet in our solar sys- 
tem was deduced by the middle of the 
nineteenth cenlury from the wobbly or- 
bit of Uranus. Something had to be up- 
setting Uranus in its path, and Neptune, 
discovered in 1846, could not be the en- 
tire answer. Yet it took astronomers an- 
other 84 years, until 1930, to find Plu- 
to, because it's so small and so far 
away. Pluto is smaller than some 
moons and nearly 4 billion miles from 
the sun. 

The situation is much the same with 
the top quark. All the particles in the the- 
oretical vacuum push and pull on 



each other. The behavior of Ihe bottom 
quark and other particles indicates 
that another quark must exist. Chris 
Ouigg, Fermilab's chief theorist, ex- 
plains that the bottom quark must 
have a partner; otherwise it would de- 
cay differently. What makes a particle 
difficult to find is heaviness rather than 
distance (as is the case with planets). 
The heavier the particle, the harder it 
is for the accelerator to manufacture it, 
As mentioned, Fermilab has determined 
that the top must weigh at least 113 
GeV. By comparison, the next heaviest 
quark, the bottom, weighs only about 
5 GeV, Theoretically, the top could 
weigh as much as 250 GeV; that's 
more than the mass of an entire urani- 
um atom. The heavier it is-, the fewer top 
quarks the accelerator can produce eve- 
ry billion collisions or so. 

"Everybody is surprised at the heav- 
iness of the top," admits Glashow. "But 
then, why is Pluto so far away?" Still, it 
would be exciting not to find the top. If 
Ihe experimenters can search the en- 
tire theoretical mass range of the 
quark and prove that it doesn't exist, 
that would be a momentous finding. 
The standard model would crumble. 
"It's a great joy for an experimentalist 
to prove a theory wrong," says Law- 
rence Berkeley Laboratory theorist Mi- 
chael Barnett. "Our field is driven by the 
desire to improve the past." 

Sheldon Giashow sighs: "Maybe we 
have come to the end of the road. May- 
be we now know all we can know." 

Rare Signatures 

In the Tevatron, a proton hits an anti- 
proton 100,000 times each second, 
each collision an opportunity to make 
a top quark. The lab's two detectors, 
CDF and DO, sit there watching for de- 
cay products — energetic muons, ener- 
getic electrons, jets of hadrons — that 
might signal the birth and almost instan- 
taneous death of the elusive quark. 
How do they know when a top raises 
its heavy little head? 

To explain, Gene Fisk, a spokesper- 
son at DO, agreed to meet me after a 
lecture at a conference attended by sev- 
eral hundred particle physicists at Fer- 
milab. The meeting :ook place in the ad- 
ministration building, Wilson Hall, 
named after the lab's first director and 
founder, Robert R. Wilson. Wilson, an 
artist as well as a physicist, modeled 
the building after a cathedral in Beau- 
vais, France, begun in 1225. Wilson 
Hall consists of twin 16-story towers lean- 
ing toward each other like hands held 
in prayer. Between the towers sits one 
of the world's largest atriums. Wilson 
saw physics as a quasi-spiritual calling, 
his physicists as priests seeking the 



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truth in a high-energy cathedral. 

I called Fisk to arrange a meeting. 
"Look for me in the atrium," he said. "I'm ■ 
middle-aged, average height and 
weight. I have a beard, and I'll be wear- 
ing a sweater." Then he paused. "Uh- 
oh-, I've just described seventy percent 
of the people at the conference." 

"Okay," I replied. "1 weigh two-hun- 
dred-thirty-five, have a long greasy po- 
nyiail, and I always wear bib coveralls." 

"Good," he said, "ill find you. " 

Spoken like a particle physicist. Fisk 
and others explained that physicists 
look for rare events rather than common 
ones. For example, a top quark com- 
monly decays (eventually) into six jets 
of hadrons. But at Fermilab, they're 
more interested in rare signatures, 
such as the two-leptons-plus-two-jets 
mode described earlier or a single- 
electron-plus-four-jets or a single-muon- 
plus-four-jets. This is to eliminate back- 
ground, those events that mimic the sig- 
nature you're looking for. For example, 
the background ratio for the common 
six-jet signature of the top quark is 
more than 100 to 1. That is, for every 
legitimate six-jet top-quark event, 
there are 100 frauds. 

So the triggers are set for rare 
events. A trigger is an item on a shop- 
ping list put together by the physicists 



that determines which events the com- 
puter should save on mag tape. Of the 
100,000 collisions per second, the com- 
puter can select and store on average 
only four. Which four? That's the job of 
the triggers, which tell the computer 
which collisions are interesting, which 
are boring, 

"You're looking, after all," explains 
Fisk, "for that one event in fen billion — 
or some number. A trigger is a set of 
conditions that an event must pass in 
order to fall into the sample of data 
that you want, is there an electron? Is 
there a muon in the event? Is the elec- 
tron's momentum perpendicular to the 
beam line? Is the muon's momentum per- 
pendicular to the beam line? Is there a 
jet of hadrons? Two jets?" You're look- 
ing for a greasy ponytail in a sea of neat- 
ly trimmed beards. 

fvlelvyn Shochet, of CDF, says elec- 
trons provide an important trigger. The 
computer is programmed to save all col- 
lisions that produce a very energetic 
electron — say, of 15 GeV or greater. 

This complexity of triggering and 
mag tape ruins the Hollywood image of 
the scientific experiment: "Oh my God!" 
cries a white-coated scientist, "that in- 
fernal quark is finally mine! Stockholm, 
here I come! "Then the entire lab erupts 
in a frenzied orgasm of celebration. 



This scenario is unlikely. First, they don't 
wssr whits coats, IVost exoerimenters 
dress like roadies for Ten Thousand Ma- 
niacs or some other intellectual rock 
band. That is, they look like creative peo- 
ple — casual, but with a technical bent. 
A lot of them look like women, because 
they are. More important, "the big dis- 
covery" won't be made until at least a 
day alter the event occurs as the re- 
searchers go over the tapes. And to elim- 
inate the problem of background, sev- 
eral events will be needed. The scien- 
tists would also like to have events in 
more than one "channel." That is, 
they'd like to see the top reveal itself in 
more than one decay mode. And be- 
cause Fermilab has two detectors, one 
would like to get substantia! evidence 
from both DO and CDF. Even then, the 
celebration may be short. 

"There will be a party at Fermilab 
when the top is found," says Chris 
Quigg. "But we need to define the top 
mass in order to test the standard mod- 
el." Quantum theory says that a short- 
lived particle's mass cannot be deter- 
mined precisely (remember the uncer- 
tainty principle); one needs to measure 
several particles to define accurately a 
range of masses. How many? Rajen- 
dran Raja, senior physicist of DO, esti- 
mates that about 200 events would do 



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it, When that happens, the real celebra- 
tion can begin, 

As CDF's Shochet describes the 
thrill of discovery in modern-day parti- 
cle physics: "The eureka moment is 
less well defined." 

Napkin Story 

One cannot talk about quarks without 
telling the napkin story. Every business 
has a napkin story. Physics is no differ- 
ent. In the 1950s and early 1960s, scien- 
tists knew about the electron, the 
muon, even the neutrino. Leptons: in- 
divisible, as Democritus predicted; ze- 
ro radius, pointlike, as Boscovich pre- 
dicted. They were elementary particles. 
But what about the particles in the nu- 
cleus of the atom, the protons and neu- 
trons? Physicists knew protons had 
some size; they couldn't be elementary 
particles. So what was inside? 

Using accelerators, physicists bom- 
barded protons with other particles, hop- 
ing to shake loose whatever little guys 
were hiding in there. They were in for a 
shock. Instead of blasting the proton in- 
to its constituent parts, the physicists 
merely produced new particles in the 
collision: pions, kaons, lambdas, sig- 
mas, the xi-minus, and xi-zero. These 
are hadrons, from the Greek for 
"heavy," and clearly they were compli- 
cated particles, not the simple constit- 
uents physicists were looking for. We 
now know that a hadron is a particle 
composed of either two or three 
quarks. The proton and neutron are al- 
so hadrons, and these new Greek-let- 
ter hadrons were heavier cousins of the 
protons that were created out of the en- 
ergy produced in the new breed of pow- 
erful accelerators of the time. 

There were literally hundreds of had- 
rons being churned out. "Quarks don't 
come out when you hit the proton with 
electrons," explains Fermilab's current 
director, John Peoples, "Hadrons 
come out." It was depressing. Instead 
of simplicity — a few smaller particles — 
physicists were facing complexity — 
hundreds of large particles, 

Enter Murray Gell-Mann. This Caltech 
theorist came up with the Eightfold Way 
in 1961, a scheme in which he organ- 
ized all the hadrons into coherent sets 
of eight and ten particles (and some 
singlets). It was a wonderful organiza- 
tion, akin to Mendeleev's periodic table 
of the elements in the previous centu- 
ry, But it didn't really explain what was 
happening. Then came the napkin. 

in 1963, Gell-Mann gave a seminar 
on the Eightfold Way at Columbia Uni- 
versity. Afterwards, at lunch, Robert Ser- 
ber, a Columbia theorist, asked Gell- 
Mann why all the hadrons couldn't be 
explained with three subunits. Gell- 
66 OMNI 



Mann grabbed a napkin and showed 
Serber that there was a serious prob- 
lem in thinking like this. These subunits 
would have to have fractional electric 
charges: -V&, + a /a, and so on. Particles 
with third integral charges had never 
been seen. 

Electric charges in the particle 
world are measured in terms of the 
charge on the electron, which has 
1.602193 x 10" 19 coulombs. Conven- 
iently, the proton's charge is exactly the 
same, as is that of the charged pion, 
the muon, and a pile of other particles. 
Therefore, we call the complicated cou- 
lomb charge above simply 1. Some- 
times it's +1 (as in the proton) and some- 
times -1 (as in the electron), depend- 
ing on whether the charge is positive 
or negative, Charges come in integers— 
0, 1, 2— of the 1.602193 x 1Q- 19 unit. 
In 1963, it was part of the physicist's 
intuition that no particle could have a 



iNone of 
the service plazas 

on the 

Jersey Turnpike," 

points out 

Lederman, "are named 

after 

particle physicists. 9 



fractional charge. 

After the lunch with Serber, Gell- 
Mann thought over what he had 
sketched on his napkin, and said, ba- 
sically, why not? Gell-Mann, arguably 
our greatest living theorist, figured out 
a way to explain the universe in terms 
of three basic building blocks. He 
called them quarks, after a word in 
James Joyce's Finnegans Wake, and 
gave them individual names as well: the 
up (+% charge), the down (-Vs.), and 
the strange (also -%). Now it all 
worked, All hadrons are made of 
quarks, sometimes three, sometimes 
two. For exampte, the proton consists 
of two ups and a down (two +% charg- 
es and one -Va), which is why the pro- 
ton has a total charge of +1. The neu- 
tron is made of one up and two downs, 
which is why it's neutral, with a charge 
of 0. Hadrons made of three quarks are 
called baryons. There are also two- 
quark hadrons, called mesons, com- 
posed of a quark and an antiquark. A 
positive pion, for example, is an up 
quark stuck to an antidown quark. 



Perhaps Gell-Mann's cleverest idea 
was how he got around the objection 
that a particle with a Va or a % charge 
had never been seen, despite the fact 
it would stick out like a sore thumb. He 
said there was no such thing as a free 
quark. It was always trapped with two 
other quarks in a baryon or with an an- 
tiquark in a meson. This solved the prob- 
lem of the quark's shyness. "If con- 
fined," Gell-Mann recalls 30 years lat- 
er, "they wouldn't have to come out." 

Some writers have claimed that Gell- 
Mann got cold feet about his own hy- 
pothesis, saying that quarks aren't "re- 
al," but purely mathematical. John Peo- 
ples recalls that when he was a young 
graduate student, Gell-Mann told him 
not to worry about looking for quarks, 
that they were merely "a bookkeeping 
device." Gell-Mann bristles at the idea, 
now well publicized, that the king of the 
quarks believed it was fruitless to look 
for his own creations. "Most of what's 
been written," he asserts, "is a plain lie." 

Of course, theorists and experiment- 
ers have' been at each other's throats 
through the years. The theorists call the 
experimenters mere plumbers. In re- 
sponse, experimenter Lederman tells a 
story about a theorist as a young boy 
drawing a picture: 

Mother: "Johnny, what are you 
doing?" 

Johnny: "I'm drawing a picture of 
God," 

Mother: "Don't be silly. Nobody 
knows what God looks like." 

Johnny: "They will when I'm finished." 

Insults aside, Gell-Mann was per- 
haps more right than he ever imagined. 
The experimenters found his quarks 
even though they couldn't shake them 
free. Bouncing electrons off protons, 
they detected the quarks inside. Or, in 
the case of the charm and bottom 
quark, the physicists— Richter, Ting, 
Lederman — created mesons in which 
those particles were lashed to their 
antiparticles. Gell-Mann's original 
three quarks swelled to four, then to 
five. "The fifth was unexpected," says 
Gell-Mann. "Nobody predicted it." 
Like all other physicists, Gell-Mann 
says that the fifth quark, the bottom, 
must have a partner, the top. If it 
doesn't, he adds, "A whole lot of ideas 
will have to be changed." 

A Free Quark? 

The top quark makes one a little quea- 
sy, The estimate of its mass keeps ris- 
ing. The heavier it is, the harder it will 
be to find. If the top mass is less than 
160 GeV, says CDF's Shochet, Fermi- 
lab will find it by the end of the current 
run, scheduled to end in December 
1994. If the mass is much higher than 



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160 GeV, Fermilab will have to wait un- 
til its new injector is built in 1998. The 
injector is a separate accelerator that 
preaccelerates the particles before 
they're fed into the Tevatron ring. This 
will allow the physicists to put more pro- 
tons into the Tevatron and increase the 
luminosity (the collision rate) from the 
present 100,000 to 5 million per sec- 
ond, thus vastly increasing the chanc- 
es of producing a top quark, 

Paul Grannis says the favored mass 
region for the top is between 125 and 
175 GeV, and adds, "I think we'll find 
it at Fermilab." But if he's wrong, and 
the top weighs in at 225 GeV or more, 
then Fermilab, even with the new injec- 
tor, is probably out of the picture. Then 
the search for the top would have to be 
switched to some larger machine to 
be built in the future. It was hoped that 
the Superconducting Super Collider 
would be that accelerator, but Con- 
gress killed the SSC this past autumn. 

Even before it's found, the top quark 
is displaying some troubling character- 
istics. Remember Gell-Mann's cardinal 
rule: A quark is never free. Yet it ap- 
pears the top quark is. John Peoples ex- 
plains that the top is too massive to 
make a hadron. When a collision in the 
Tevatron yields enough energy to pop 
a top quark into existence, it must cre- 
ss OMNI 



ate an antitop as well. In the cases of 
every other quark, the two particles 
would form a meson, a hadron. "But the 
lifetime of a top quark is so short that 
it can't form a hadron," explains Peo- 
ples. "It can't go around even once. 
That's my definition of how long it 
takes to make a hadron. You have two 
particles going around each other. 
They have to go around at least once." 

This makes life miserable for the ex- 
perimenters. When the charm quark 
was discovered, it produced charmo- 
nium, a meson made of a charm and 
an anticharm quark. The bottom quark 
and its antiparticle produced "bottomo- 
nium." Shochet explains that such mes- 
ons are convenient to detect. Gene 
Fisk agrees, saying the top quark is fun- 
damentally different in that it can't form 
these nice bound states. "There is no 
'toponium,'" says Shochet, 

A free quark? Such talk is threaten- 
ing to the old hands. "Free, schmee!" 
shouts Glashow. "It's like any other 
quark, except that it's very heavy." Even 
experimenter Lederman gets upset at 
the prospect: "No, no, no. A quark is 
never free!" Michael Barnett says the 
top quark isn't really free; it's just that 
it doesn't live long enough to attach it- 
self to another quark. Talking to physi- 
cists about quark freedom or lack of 



same is like covering candidates on the 
campaign trail: "No, I didn't smoke 
dope, because I never inhaled," or, "I 
would have been a war hero had I not 
flunked the physical." 

The top quark sounds like president 
Bill Clinton and Pat Buchanan lashed 
together. Fisk says the top isn't free be- 
cause you can't produce it without mak- 
ing an antitop. They're "associated." As 
you can see, the "hard" science of high- 
energy physics sometimes enters the 
realm of philosophy when it deals with 
the comings and goings of individual 



Still, despite all the verbiage to the 
contrary, the top is a strange bird, mak- 
ing it all the more intriguing, all -the 
more important to find. "It's the only 
quark we can see," says Peoples, be- ' 
cause it never binds with its antiquark 
partner. Whenever one particle differs 
substantially from its ilk, it causes a min- 
icrisis among physicists, who strive for 
symmetry, not unlike Democritus and 
the ancient Greeks who started this 
whole business. The top quark is caus- 
ing that kind of unrest. With the Teva- 
tron up and running again, this discon- 
tent will be eased if it finally, definitive- 
ly pins down this rogue particle — the 
sixth and final, bizarrely heavy, physi- 
cally free but philosophically bound, top 
quark. Or, if after every possible 
search is made the physicists come up 
empty, science will face its greatest cri- 
sis in more than a century. The prevail- 
ing theory of the universe, the standard 
model, will be wrong, and there is no 
alternate theory standing in the wings 
to replace it. As Richter said, "The 
whole edifice will collapse." 

And if it is found? Can we then dis- 
band the whole field of particle phys- 
ics? No chance. Peoples explains that 
the top quark completes "our little pe- 
riodic table of elements." But he says 
there are too many particles. "As soon 
as we have more than one, we're un- 
happy." No one can explain the differ- 
ent masses of the quarks — either why 
the top is so heavy or why the others 
are so light. No one really understands 
the repeating pattern of generations, 
two quarks and two leptons in each. 

The now-defunct Super Collider was 
being built in Texas to address this prob- 
lem. Its main quarry was the Higgs bos- 
on. The Higgs is not a matter particle 
like a quark or lepton, but a messen- 
ger particle that weaves a field, much 
as the photon creates electromagnetic 
fields. The Higgs field, goes the theo- 
ry, gives the quarks an illusory mass, if 
it could be swept away, the top, the bot- 
tom, the up, the down, and so on, 
would be equal and massless — a sim- 
pler universe. 




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The dead Super Collider was also de- 
signed to beat up on the quarks and 
leptons, which we believe are indivisi- 
ble, as Democritus insisted, and point- 
like, as Boscovich required. The stand- 
ard model doesn't explain why there are 
six quarks, says Glashow. Perhaps the 
repeating pattern hints at "prequarks" 
or "preleptons." 

"As far as we know, there is no struc- 
ture inside the quark or electron," says 
Lederman. "However, there may be 
entire civilizations in there." 

Truth Quark 

The bottom quark has an alias. Its dis- 
coverer, Leon Lederman, prefers call- 
ing it the beauty quark. If you subscribe 
to that term, then the top quark gets a 
street name also: the truth. Are we on 
the verge of the truth? 

But there's a bigger question, a so- 
ciological one. When it comes to 
quarks and prequarks, bosons and lep- 
tons, the public asks, "So what?" Parti- 
cle physics seems irrelevant to our dai- 
ly concerns. "Will it cure male pattern 
baldness?" jokes Peoples. Lederman 
points out that none of the service pla- 
zas on the Jersey Turnpike are named 
after particle physicists. Yet the ques- 
tions that physicists raise strike direct- 
ly at our notions of objective physical 



reality. How does the world work? How 
do we relate to it? Again, it all comes 
down to particles. 

Ernest Rutherford discovered in 1911 
that matter was mostly empty space. If 
the nucleus were the size of a pea, the 
electrons would be 300 feet away. The 
physicist and astronomer Sir Arthur Ed- 
dington, an important player in the rev- 
olution in physics that took place in the 
1920s, pondered the idea of a world 
that was mostly empty space, solidity 
merely an illusion caused by particles 
racing madly back and forth. He said 
that every physicist has two tables in his 
mind. The first table is the common- 
place object in our dining room. It's per- 
manent and substantial. We place 
plates on it without fear they will fall 
through the wood. The. second table is 
an object defined by twentieth-century 
physics. It is mostly empty space, 
filled in only by a gauzelike density of 
particles flying about. "Notwithstanding 
its strange construction, it turns out to 
be an entirely efficient table," writes 
Eddington. "It supports my writing pa- 
per as satisfactorily as table number 
one, for when I lay the paper on it, the 
little electrical particles with their head- 
long speed keep on hitting the under- 
side so that the paper is maintained in 
shuttlecock fashion at a nearly steady 



level." Eddington goes on to say that 
physics has decided that table number 
2 is the only one that really exists. Num- 
ber 1 is a fraud. "On the other hand," 
he continues, "I need not tell you that 
modern physics will never succeed in 
exorcising that first table — strange com- 
pound of external nature, mental im- 
agery, and inherited prejudice. . . ." 

It's like trying to imagine God. The 
"correct" answer is an abstraction. No 
intelligent person would describe a man 
with a long, white beard, yet it's hard 
to get that image out of one's brain. 

We now all know that our world is com- 
posed of rapidly moving particles. Peo- 
ple have suffered for this belief. Plato 
wanted all of Democritus's writings 
burned. Galileo took his lumps from the 
church. Boltzmann ended up on a 
rope. When the top quark is finally 
found, it will solidify a 2,400-year belief 
that invisible particles in constant vio- 
lent motion explain the variety and com- 
plexity of our universe; it will justify the 
work and suffering of countless physi- 
cists over the centuries. Still, is this be- 
lief right? 

We asked Fermilab's director John " 
Peoples if he ever questioned his faith 
in particles, the belief upon which his 
science is based. He hardly paused. 
"Every day," he said. DO 



PARKES 

CONTINUED FROM PAGE 54 

past ten years. Rather, it may be more 
fruitful to identify certain aspects of nar- 
rative — those "things that give narrative 
its richness and emotional content — 
and see if there are ways to apply 
them to what, at least for the next few 
years, is basically a game environment. 

So, instead of dealing with the nar- 
rative as an unbreakable whole, let's 
"random access" the essential parts of 
narrative that can enrich the interactive 
experience. And wouldn't you know, 
they come with an acronym — the four 
G's of story: character, context, closure, 
community. 

Stories deal with characters with 
their own attributes. As writers, we of- 
ten deal with the issue of "character log- 
ic," which is a fancy way of saying that 
people tend to act a certain way, and 
if you're going to write well, you have 
to create characters with consistent and 
predictable behaviors. Think of Michael 
Corleone's cold intelligence or Annie 
Hall's insouciant directness. Well-writ- 
ten characters act the way they want 
to — and not necessarily the way you, 
the writer, may want to manipulate 
them to suit your story. Games, on the 
other hand, deal with icons— two-dimen- 
sional symbols without character traits — 
which exist only to be manipulated by 
the player. They act as our stand-ins. 

Stories take place in a context— 
whether factual or mythological, histor- 
ical or psychological. They offer a spe- 
cific, detailed world which reflects the 
writer's sensibilities. Games tend to be 
largely abstract, partially because of the 
present limitations of the technology but 
also because the emphasis in game de- 
sign has been on the visceral reaction 
of the player, (This may account for 
why, despite the fun and excitement of 
a good round of whatever your favorite 
videogame is, you tend to feel buzzed 
but somehow empty.) 

Stories have closure; they reach an 
inevitable conclusion. I'm not much in- 
terested in writing a version of War- 
Games where the audience gets to de- 
cide if the world blows up. And I'm not 
sure if the sunning emotional power of 
£ I would be the same if we could de- 
cide whether or not E.T. stays or goes 
or if Elliot could go with him. Fiction is 
about transcending the harsh realities 
of existence; if the realities are in a con- 
stant state of flux, it's hard to make a 
statement. This closed-ended quality — 
which underlies the very act of giving 
yourself over to the storyteller and his 
or her tale— might be. the defining at- 
tribute of the narrative. Games, on the 



other hand, are open-ended: Some- 
times you win, sometimes you win a lit- 
tle more, and sometimes you lose. Or 
you get a little farther in the adventure 
world, or your SimCity is more populous 
and prosperous — but the endpoint is 
not predetermined. 

And finally, while games are individ- 
ually interactive, stories are communal- 
ly interactive. While ! do not have any 
effect on whether or not E.T. returns to 
his planet or if David Lightman blows 
up the world in WarGames. in another 
sense I interact with the story in a far 
more profound way: I talk about it with 
other people who have shared the 
same experience. I interpolate motives 
in the characters or extrapolate poten- 
tial alternaie storylines with the simple 
phrase of "What if?" I argue about a per- 
formance or an interpretation. This as- 
pect of communal interactivity extends 
to television in a more immediate way; 



4We ! d 
better understand what 

it is 
about games that seems 

to answer 

the entertainment needs 

of an 

entire generation.? 



I can talk to my wife about what Sein- 
feld just said or what the lawyer in L'A. 
/.awjust did without impeding the sto- 
ry — it moves on without my input. In 
fact, if you ever want to see how import- 
ant this interactive aspect of entertain- 
ment is. the next time you have dinner 
with some friends, make the rule that no 
one can talk about anything dealing 
with movies or television shows or 
books they've read. It'll be a quiet eve- 
ning, I guarantee. On the other hand — 
and this admittedly might be an adult 
perspective— I personally can't recall 
the last time I got into a heated discus- 
sion with someone about that amazing 
run on Tetrus I had last weekend. Elec- 
tronic games are different every time 
you play them, which means they're not 
readily shared by your friends, your fam- 
ily, or an auditorium full of strangers. 
They are individual pursuits. 

It is in these last two attributes that 
the inherent differences between games 
and stories are most apparent — and 
hardest to overcome, if, for example, 
stories derive much of their meaning 



and satisfaction from their sense of clo- 
sure, then how can we tell a story in a 
medium that is by nature open ended? 

One thought has been to have the in- 
teractive element deal with character 
and venue but have the final conclusion 
predetermined. Imagine a version of 
The Hunt for Red October in which you 
could choose to experience the story 
from the point of view of the Russian 
sub commander or the CIA analyst, 
from the office of president or the halls 
of the Kremlin, always working your way 
through the story to its inevitable con- 
clusion. While this might be diverting for 
a while, I think it would run out of 
steam. Ironically, a story with a fixed end- 
point may be open to infinite interpre- 
tations, but unless the pathways in an 
interactive experience have infinite 
possib [litres, the player will tire of expe- 
riencing them. 

So — when it comes to predictability 
and closure, these most defining as- 
pects of narrative — I think we have to 
punt, But that doesn't mean new tech- 
nologies won't allow us to inject other 
aspects of narrative into game playing. 
Take character. My understanding of 
3D0 technology is that it will be able 
to render the icon — the dinosaurs from 
Jurassic Park, for example — as fully mod- 
eled, virtually three-dimensional beings. 
Could we extend the notion of dimen- 
sionality to character traits as well? In- 
stead of being just a surrogate for the 
player, might they not begin to have the 
fundamental aspects of personality: fear- 
fulness, puckishness, deceit? Could 
they start to learn from the game play- 
er's tendency to respond to certain sit- 
uations in certain ways and anticipate 
the player's action? Could an icon re- 
sist one's attempt to manipulate it be- 
cause of who it is? Could it be subver- 
sive and try to trick you into making the 
wrong move in the game? Or, even bet- 
ter, could we as users become involved 
in creating the "personalities" of the dif- 
ferent icons? As icons. begin to take on 
their qualities, they'll no longer be just 
our stand-ins; they can become our part- 
ners in the interactive experience. 
They'll begin to become characters. 

How about context? What is alluring 
about a great story is its ability to take 
you into another world — the success of 
The Last of the Mohicans is partially 
due to this. Movies and books can cre- 
ate an environment with tremendous de- 
tail, whereas most games tends to be 
abstract and quite cold. Imagine cre- 
ating miniature sets, utilizing the skills 
and crafts that have been honed in Holly- 
wood: fully realized, art-directed, de- 
tailed worlds. Blade Runner with its 
postmodern squalor, the witty, fright- 
ening nether world of Beetlejuice, or the 



moody, stylized atmosphere of Gotham City. How about 
the battlefield at Gettysburg built with stunning historical 
accuracy as the context for a war garne? We could cap- 
ture-these images on video, digitize the information, and 
use them as the backdrop for an interactive experience 
with fully modeled 3-D icons as our partners in exploring 
these worlds, The structure of the experience would be 
interactive and gamelike, but the emotional involvement 
for the player could be of a whole other magnitude.- 

Finally, some words about community. I remember a 
few years ago the moment when my then-two-year-old 
daughter came to me a few months after we had taken 
her to Marine World and asked me the question, "Remem- 
ber the dolphin?" It was a major breakthrough in her be- 
coming a person and in all of us becoming a family. An- 
ticipating, remembering, and communicating shared ex- 
perience gets to the heart of what culture is. Besides, I 
know that when I come home after work, I'm looking for 
ways to relax and be entertained that don't isolate me 
from my family. There must be a way to open up the in- 
teractive experience so that it can be actively shared by 
a community — even if community means mom, dad, and 
the kids in the living room. This is an aspect of this emerg- 
ing technology that deserves a lot more thought. 

So, we might be on the brink of something. It's not the 
first time a technical breakthrough has had the potential 
to effect a qualitative change in how we render the 
world. It happened one time about 500 years ago. The 
time was the Renaissance, and the breakthrough was the 
discovery of perspective. 

Painting before the Renaissance was exclusively reli- 
gious in theme and two-dimensional in form. The human 
figure was rendered as a flat icon (there's that word again), 
rigid and locked, subservient to the painRnc's inflexibe 
structure, just as the human spirit was seen as subservi- 
ent to the will of God and the dogma of the Church. 
Then, in the early Renaissance, painters began to dis- 
cover and develop a way of seeing the world, based on 
scientific principles, that added dimensionality to their 
work, freeing the human figure from the ground and per- 
mitting the artists to render it with lifelike sensitivity. 

Now, these artists did have the church on their backs, 
but they didn't have multibillion-dollar corporations trying 
to figure out how to best develop and exploit this new 
technology. And you can be sure they didn't get togeth- 
er to figure out what amazing new subjects they could 
paint with this great new tool. They kept making religious 
paintings. But the technique of perspective that liberat- 
ed figure from ground was, in fact, a key step toward the 
secularization of art and the birth of humanism. What start- 
ed as a better, more emotional Madonna and Child 
evolved into the Mona Lisa and, ultimately, a kind of ex- 
pressiveness previously unimaginable. 

So we shouldn't feel that by improving and enriching 
computer games we're missing the boat on some elusive 
"interactive movie" that's just around the corner. Give it 
time. Games reflect how we humans interact with an evolv- 
ing world, one that is increasingly determined by the ma- 
nipulation of information. There's no reason they can't be- 
come vehicles for emotional content, rich characterization, 
and shared experience. And what today might seem like 
just a souped-up Super Mario Brothers may, in fact, lead 
to tomorrow's interactive Citizen Kane. DO 



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shot in my father's file that I couldn't 
quite remember. It took me a long time 
to realize that the model for the picture 
was myself. I am five-eleven. Jean- 

Jacques was six feet I am handsome. 

Jean Jacques was beautiful. Men and 
women turned to look at him when he 
walked past. 

The foreign name, the hint of for- 
eignness in the voice on the tape, I 
thought, must be an affectation, the res- 
idue from a privileged childhood spent 
■ abroad— he didn't really need the mon- 
ey that my father had been sending 
him. Where had he gone to college? 
Some expensive school, Berkeley, per- 
haps. No doubt he had graduated 
near the top of his class. No doubt he 
had won prizes, cash prizes which 
gave him the time and the prestige to 
pick and choose among employers. 
Whereas 1 had gone to the University 
of Connecticut and my mother had 
paid. A second-rate B.A. with third- 
rate grades— it was hard for me to find 
anything. 1 had a job in a health club 
for six dollars an hour. 

This sounds carping and resentful, 
but in fact 1 did not envy his success. 
He was too far away. In the morning 1 
would watch the weather channel, and 
it never rained in Oakland. The temper- 
ature was always fifty-seven degrees. 
I had never been there, but in my 
mind's eye I pictured it, conveniently lo- 
cated atop the San Andreas Fault, mid- 
way between Yosemite National Park 
and the stupefying beauty of Big Sur. 
The capital of a new and perfect Cali- 
fornia, where fathers loved their sons 
and chastised them lovingly. Where col- 
lege graduates found interesting, high- 
paying jobs. How could I begrudge Jac- 
ques anything? He was my counterpart, 
my double in that uncorrupted world. 

And yet there must have been some 
conduit between that world and this, be- 
cause from time to time I would catch 
sight of him. Not at first. At first all I no- 
ticed was a tension in the air, a sudden 
electricity. At certain moments in the 
street in Meridan, during my lunch 
hour perhaps, I would feel a new small 
sensitivity. I would know Jean-Jacques 
was thinking about me, that our 
thoughts were colliding like cold and 
hot fronts over Kansas. Colliding but not 
mixing — frustrated, later, by our lack of 
communication, I began to imagine 
that he was leaving me clues. Arrange- 
ments of sticks, of trash, junk mail, graf- 
fiti on the street, all seemed like mes- 
sages in a language I could not de- 
code. 



But I'm going too fast. These delu- 
sions came gradually. And always 
there was part of me that was still ra- 
tional. I remember talking to Servando, 
who was an aerobics instructor at the 
health club where I worked before I was 
let go. I told him a suspicion I had that 
my father was still alive, that he had 
faked his dealh, faked his cremation, 
fooled his wife and all his creditors, and 
was living in the Bay Area. It was just 
a theory. I had not come to any defi- 
nite conclusion, and I was weighing the 
evidence with Servando, and listening 
to him carefully when he said it was un- 
likely, that it probably wasn't true. I be- 
lieved him. I was reassured. But then I 
got to thinking about it later in the 
week, and it occurred to me that may- 
be Servando wasn't necessarily disin- 
terested, that maybe he had received 
a letter from Jean-Jacques, or maybe 
some message in one of the arrange- 



tThese 

delusions came gradually. 

And always 

there was a part of me 

that was 
still rational ... I had a 

suspicion that 
my father was still alive. 9 



ments of objects that I was finding so 
difficult to interpret. It drove me cra'zy, 
the idea tha: everything around me was 
so pregnant with information that 
might .change my life, and yet I 
couldn't understand any of it. 

That summer I decided to take the 
LSAT's. I had been fired from my job 
after an argument with the desk man- 
ager. I think 1 was probably in the 
wrong. Maybe I even told her that — in 
any case, she didn't hold a grudge. She 
arranged for me to receive unemploy- 
ment. At the same time I got a letter 
from my father's lawyer, saying that I 
had been left a legacy of $15,000. The 
lawyer's name was Mr. Ordauer; he al- 
so said that my father's estate would de- 
fray the expense of any further educa- 
tion — it was a nice letter, and I liked the 
language, the formal phrases. It made 
me want to follow in Mr. Ordauer's foot- 
steps. I knew being a lawyer was a 
good job, perhaps a better job than any- 
thing Jean-Jacques had yet achieved. 
I called Mr. Ordauer on the phone. "Lis- 
ten," I said, "was there another legacy? 



Did my father leave anything to a man 
named Brauner, in Oakland?" Mr. Or- 
dauer had a pleasant voice. "No," he 
said without hesitating. "He left no mon- 
ey to his business associates." 

How wonderful a gift, I thought, to be 
able to lie so effortlessly!- So I signed 
up to take the LSAT's at the University 
of Connecticut, and I bought some train- 
ing books. And when I was studying 
them I realized that this was definitely 
what I was intended to do with my life— 
I knew every answer to every question 
in the sample tests without any prob- 
lem at all. Those questions about the 
couples square-dancing, and who's 
next to whom. I just knew it; I could see 
them spinning around, coming to rest. 
As I say, I had never wished Jean- 
Jacques any harm. But I could tell now 
that he was worried, anxious, jealous of 
me. Jealous of my closeness with my 
father, who would be sending me to law 
school— I guess he decided he had to 
come back East and do something, be- 
cause it was about that time, the third 
week in July, that I first saw him. As I 
say, I had some idea that he had been 
at my father's funeral, but I couldn't be 
sure. He was lurking behind a pillar. I 
hadn't seen his face. The first time I saw 
it, I was walking down Orange Street in 
New Haven, and there was a beautiful 
dark-haired man in front of me. His 
right leg was bandaged, and he was 
swinging himself along on crutches. He 
turned back to look at me. 

I had gone to New Haven to visit an 
old friend. He had seemed concerned 
and upset that I was sleeping so bad- 
ly; the conversation was disagreeable, 
and so I left. 

I was walking back to where I'd 
parked my car when I saw this man, 
and even then I didn't think much 
about it. I just noticed his beauty, his 
dark eyebrows and his dark eyes. His 
fat soft mouth. But it wasn't until I saw 
the same man in Meridan, looking at me 
from across the street, that I knew who 
it was. Almost I went up to him. Almost 
I confronted him. He smiled at me and 
made a minute gesture with his hand. 
I thought, l won't play into his game. It's 
not just out of chance that he allowed 
me to see him. He wants something 
from me. 

I turned around and walked away 
from him. But I could feel his eyes. And 
I could feel his presence around me, 
the next day and the next. During the 
weeks before the test, I was tormented 
by a series of absurd accidents. 
Once, an egg fell on the sidewalk just 
in front of me. Once, a dog barked all 
night, just when I was finally able to 
rest, I'm not saying that even at the 
time I held him responsible for these 



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events. I can'l piclurs h.m limping along 
the rooftops, an egg in his hand. I can't 
picture him dragging a dog to sit out- 
side my room, inciting it to bark. It's 
just that I could feel myself deflected 
and distracted by bad luck, just when 
it was most important for me to concen- 
trate. To rest, to gather my resources, 
but always, every day there was some- 
thing. My landlord raised my rent. I twist- 
ed my foot, stepping off the curb in 
front of my apartment. I sat down, hold- 
ing my leg, tears in my eyes, and I 
could feel that sudden tension in the air. 
And though I couldn't see him any- 
where in the street, especially not 
through eyes blurred by tears, I could. 
feel his presence. Not that I blamed 
him — it had been my own stupidity, my 
own clumsiness. But in a way that 
made it worse — he was using my own 
worst flaws against me. He was mak- 
ing it impossible for me to hate anyone 
but myself. 

But still, I refused to let myself be de- 
flected. I siudied he training books over 
and over. I memorized the responses. 
I could feel the tension growing all 
'around me; on the morning of the test, 
I was very nervous. I got into my car. 
And I had had trouble driving for a few 
days — there was something wrong 
with my spacial perception, and I was 



always afraid that I was getting too 
close to things. Streets I had driven 
down a thousand times seemed narrow, 
and I was concerned that I might 
scrape the paint off cars parked along 
the curb. So I drove slowly, carefully, 
anxious when cars approached me in 
the opposite direction. Anxious when 
people passed me, or honked at me 
from behind. 

That morning I had dressed in my 
suit. I was taking time with everything. 
I had given myself fifty minutes for the 
drive, but when I looked at my watch, 
I saw I had to hurry. I was out in the coun- 
try by that time, driving past a golf 
course. It was separaled from the high- 
way by a guard rail and a steep embank- 
ment. There was a strip where you 
could pull over. And when I looked at 
my watch, I had to take my eyes off the 
road for a moment — I admit it. It's not 
as if he ran in front of the car; he was 
just standing with his crutches in the 
breakdown lane when I hit him. 

I pulled over as quickly as I could 
and then just waited for a while. I left 
the car running, because I was still in 
a hurry. More than ever, in fact. An 
hour later I would blame myself by think- 
ing thai even in this matter of life and 
death I could be cursory and careless, 
just like the other cars that were rush- 



ing past me without stopping. But 
when I got out and looked at the bump- 
er, there was no mark. I walked back 
down the strip, trying to find him, and 
I couldn't. 

Yet I had seen him clearly, standing 
with his crutches. His dark hair, dark 
eyes. I had felt the shudder in the car as 
he slid off the front bumper. 

But I didn't know what to do. I was 
already late. And it was possible that I 
had been mistaken. As I thought about 
it more, standing in the hot morning by 
the side of the road, it seemed more like- 
ly — what would he have been doing 
here? How had he gotten here? How 
could he have known that I would 
come this way? It was absurd. I 
back to my car and drove to the test 
site without stopping. I was prepared — 
I had my pencils and my clock. I weni 
in and we sat in rows, and I listened 
patiently to the instructions. We were in 
the basement of Monteith Hall, and ' 
was well lit down there. They passec 
out the test booklets, and then we start- 
ed. The first section was analogies — i 
was harder than the sample I had prac- 
ticed w th, and I could feel myself nu=ik 
ing a few errors. But that did nothing to 
shake my confidence. It would have 
been silly to expect to perform perfect- 
ly, especially after such a disturbing in- 



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cident in the car. But I feit confident 
that I was able to distinguish subtle 
shades of meaning, even though it was 
hot in Monteith Hall that morning. I fin- 
ished the section exactly on time. 

But after a while I found it harder to 
concentrate, because I was thinking 
about Jean-Jacques. What if he was 
still there by the side of the road, and 
I hadn't seen him for some reason? May- 
be I had dragged him underneath my 
car. Or maybe he had rolled down the 
embankment, or been thrown over the 
guard rail. I had been going almost for- 
ty miles an hour. 

This was in the middle of the quanti- 
tative section. Ordinarily, it would have 
been so easy for me, except I couldn't 
concentrate. It was all pie charts and 
parabolas — basic stuff, but I was won- 
dering if I could be arrested for leaving 
the scene of an accident. I wondered 
whether I'd been seen. So that when 
they told us to stop, I wasn't finished. 
And that was my best section — the 
next one was analytical, and the sec- 
ond question was about some traffic ac- 
cident. I couldn't believe it. I just 
stared at the question. 

After ten minutes, I closed my book- 
let. I left the pencils but I took the 
clock and walked out, back' to my car. 
There was no mark on it anywhere, but 
even so t got in and drove back to the 
golf course. I thought maybe he had 
rolled down into some bushes near the 
road, or maybe he had been injured, 
and had managed to drag himself away 
into the trees. There was a copse of 
trees near the ninth green; I parked my 
car near the guard rail and climbed 
down the embankment. I thought may- 
be I would find his crutch. I poked a 
stick into a bush, looking for his crutch- 
es, and then I walked across the 
green and through the copse. I sat 
down on a bench on the other side, and 
I watched some people set up their 
tees. A man in a red shirt and beige 
pants hit a long, straight ball over the 
water hazard. 

As I sat there, it occurred to me that 
Jean-Jacques had tricked me. And may- 
be he hadn't even been there, maybe 
he had never left California, but even 
so he had tricked me, and robbed me 
again. It occurred to me that he had sto- 
len my life from me as he had stolen my 
father's love. That he had stolen my 
life, that he was living it and enjoying 
it, while I was sitting on this bench. I 
was sitting alone on the white bench, 
watching the man in the beige pants 
trudge down the hill. It was a hot, 
bright morning. 

After a while, I got up to follow him. 
And I thought, it's something just to be 
able to get up and walk. It's something 



' just to climb up an embankment and sit 
in the front seat of your car. I sat there 
with my hands gripping the steering 
wheel. I closed my eyes, and for a bliss- 
ful moment I couldn't remember why I 
was so upset. I saw myself sitting in my 
father's office in Santa Morflica. The flu- 
orescent lighting overhead. The dark win- 
dow and the parking lot. But this time 
it was different. This time a single hour 
had been excised from my memory, 
cleansing what had gone before, cleans- 
ing for a blissful moment what came af- 
terward. Suddenly I couldn't remember 
whether the file cabinet had five draw- 
ers or only four. Or else the bottom draw- 
er was locked, and I tried, and tried, 
and failed to pull it open. 

Simultaneously, perhaps in order to 
replace that excised hour, I remem- 
bered something new. I slid forward on 
the car seat. I pulled my wallet out of 
my back pocket and retrieved from it a 
letter, written years before and never 
sent. I unfolded it carefully, for it was 
worn along the creases. "Dear Dad," it 
said. And then in part: "I hate you. I 
hate you for every bad choice I ever 
made." 

People talk so carelessly about how 
life gets better, about time and pa- 
tience, about bravery and strength. Be 
brave, they say, be strong. People con- 
nect the two. But in the real world they 
are 'opposit.es. They never go together. 
Strong people are like tank command- 
ers driving through a field of bones. No 
courage is involved. Courage is the vir- 
tue of the weak. 

After a while, I buckled on my seat 
belt. I turned on the ignition and drove 
home. I went indoors and lay down on 
my bed. All that time when I was grow- 
ing up, before my father moved to Cal- 
ifornia—there was no reason to remem- 
ber what he did, or what he didn't do. 
Only later, in my mother's kitchen. 
Once she said; "He did the best he 
could. He just wasn't cut out for it He 
didn't have the instinct to protect." 
Once she said, with no lightness what- 
ever in her tone: "You used to bring out 
the worst in him." 

Shortly after his death, Barbara had 
sent me a package containing a roll of 
super-8 film. They were home movies 
taken at my mother's house. I didn't 
have access to a projector; all I could 
do was hold them to the light. Now I 
took the roll from my bedside table and 
untaped the end. I sat up on my bed 
and held a strip of film up to the win- 
dow. It showed a man about my age, 
sitting cross-legged in the grass, hold- 
ing up a baby. 

I pulled six or eight feet of film down 
between my thumbs. The image didn't 
seem to change. DO 



INTERVIEW 



CONTINUED FROM PI 



large size and scale. I've deployed ro- 
bots the size of a videocassette into nu- 
clear facilities. Small machines reduce 
launch mass, use less power for loco- 
motion. A small machine with climbing 
abilities could hone to a larger machine 
and share resources. Robot teams 
have merit. 

Omni: Why does machine intelligence 
come from mobility? 
Whittaker: A fixed manipulator bolted to 
a factory floor works on a contained prob- 
lem. Venturing into the world, a machine 
encounters the unexpected. The 
ground might collapse under its feet. 
Work takes forceful interaction with 
things a robot doesn't control. It may dis- 
turb the underpinnings of materials 
that collapse as it attempts to move 
them. Out in the world, a machine is not 
alone. It has to account for, interact and 
cooperate with people and other ma- 
chines. It forces the machine to think 
for itself in a complex world, 
Omni: Did you always intend to build au- 
tonomous robots? 

Whittaker: I always wanted functional ro- 
bots. Their merit would be in what they 
accomplished, independent of the tech- 
nologies going into them. If I could get 
a job done with a motor, a wire, and 
knife switch, that was enough. But 
time after time I encountered situations 
where the robot needed to safeguard 
itself or think for itself. 

When we went into TMI, there 
wasn't even a mature jargon for the idea 
of autonomy. Even in the literature it was 
just blabbering. Artificial-intelligence 
[Al] theorists who were fixated on au- 
tonomy had no idea how to accomplish 
it. We'd be out with cameras and com- 
puters processing for hours and by the 
end of the day, the thing had moved 
five centimeters, Yet having seen com- 
puters getting a fixed manipulator to 
pick out colored blocks in a pristine set- 
ting, the Al group decided this was the 
great leap, that we could now build rea- 
soning entities that would move about, 
fend for themselves, and serve the in- 
terests of humankind. But for a machine 
to reason about going through the 
world — that's another dimension. The Al 
people were promising more than we 
could deliver. 

Early on, we worked on primitive 
tasks like moving wheels and arms or 
picking up a block. But the working 
world was not clamoring for a machine 
that picks up a block. The robot would 
have to generate, sequence, coordi- 
nate, and execute thousands of such 
actions to do anything meaningful. It 



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took brilliant minds with radical ideas 
and software to enable the robot to put 
thousands of actions together. At each 
roadblock, we pushed through with new 
understandings of the control of tasks, 
laser scanning, neural-net computing. 
We've progressed from "step and 
stop" to a robot truck that hauls rocks 
at 35 miles per hour. ' 
Omni: How does an autonomous walk- 
er think its way along? 
Whittaker: Like a computer chess play- 
er reasoning out a set of moves. To a 
robot with six or eight legs, taking a 
step is like moving- a piece. It can 
move any leg, constrained by the 
rules- — its reach, balance, obstacles in 
its path, The machine chess player 
gets rewarded for making a good 
move, penalized for a bad one. A 
move by black to threaten a white 
knight might be worth five points, but if 
that square is attacked by white's bish- 
op, moving there might be weighted a 
minus five. 

Similarly, if the robot takes a long 
step to a place that moves it toward an 
objective, it may gain some points. But 
if the place where it wants to step 
looks to its computer map like a hole in 
the ground, it might lose points by step- 
ping there. As in chess, it does the ro- 
bot no good to look myopically at each 
nibbling step. It must consider a thou- 
sand steps into the future, develop a 
plan and strategies. 

Making its way, the robot might get 
surprised. Setting a foot down on what 
looks like solid ground, it might break 
through the crust. Then it will assess 
and react. It could continue lowering its 
foot, seeking something solid, lift the 
foot and put it back, or step with anoth- 
er foot. It may determine that the sur- 
face ahead is too brittle to support its 
weight and seek a different path. As the 
robot moves forward, it can see more 
and look behind what used to be in shad- 
ow and revise its plan. Dante uses ste- 
reo cameras to know if there^s some- 
thing it can't yet see. It will identify that 
target as a place it might want to step. 
Not yet knowing if it's volcanic ash, gran- 
ite, soft snow, or hard ice, it will test it 
when it can. 

Omni: If an autonomous walker could 
talk, what would it say? 
Whittaker: Ambler does talk. But we lis- 
ten to only a fraction of the robot's rea- 
soning; otherwise, we'd be over- 
whelmed by data streaming in from cam- 
eras and sensors of motion, balance, 
and pose that it's considering. We tap 
into the software that manages traffic as 
the components of the robot talk to 
each other. 

The planner might request data 
from scanners before commanding mo- 



tors to act. With its descriptive vocab- 
ulary and voice synthesizer, the wiretap 
software describes Ambler's intentions. 
If Ambler perceives a problem, like 
when it steps on the edge of a rock, it 
might say, "Whoa, something is hitting 
the left side of my foot. "-It will. think 
about this and say, "I intend to pick up 
my foot and try again." 

Ambler changed the thinking about 
walkers. Its importance was not simply 
as a machine that could step over 
things, but as a robot that can make 
sense of the world when traversing un- 
even ground, a wheeled machine cross- 
ing rough terrain, that lurches up on a 
rock, sees the sky, then careens off and 
sees the ground. 

A computer can't comprehend im- 
ages that don't match up. A walker iso- 
lates its body from the terrain and 
moves in a smooth trajectory. Machines 
working on floors of aircraft hangers 
and factories or driving along roads haul- 
ing rocks will still need wheels. But walk- 
ers will be the machine of choice for 
rough terrain or working in places 
made for humans. 

I remember the debates at TMI: Can 
the robot clear this low cable? 
Squeeze through that doorway? It was 
tough to judge dimensions and geom- 
etry with a human eye through a cam- 
era. Each decision was crucial. If we 
screwed up and got pinched, the robot 
would be lost, Today I'd send an au- 
tonomous walker into the Unit 2 base- 
ment or the Chernobyl reactor. It could 
squat down or rise up and look around, 
know for itself if an opening were too 
narrow, overhang too low. 
Omni: How do robots learn? 
Whittaker: We have a truck that drives 
itself along the freeway. A human 
takes the wheel first, but the sensors 
and computers follow along and train 
themselves. Years ago, we might have 
used vision techniques to pull out the 
edge line and broken white center 
line, and a controller would have used 
that information to say, "Stay between 
the lines." Today we use a neural-net 
computer. As the machine drives, it 
may ignore the lines altogether. Maybe 
it picks up something on the other side 
of the road to watch or tire marks 
where other vehicles have driven. 

Initially, we built Ambler to move no 
faster than it could think. But soon its 
decision making was remarkably 
quick. Unfortunately, it was still bound 
by its slow mechanisms: Traversing 500 
meters could take 16 hours. 

It's difficult for a machine to learn. In 
a simple-minded planner, a human as- 
signs priorities. If you emphasize sta- 
bility, a walker will pick up one leg at a 
time, shift the body to keep balance, 



and creep along. If you emphasize 
speed, the robot will push stability to the 
edge, get wild and crazy, and maybe 
tip over. In advanced planners, the ro- 
bot rewards itself for a desired behav- 
ior, fike keeping its head still for good 
balance. There is no emotion to it, no 
smile comes over its visage, but it gets 
a high score — even if this behavior is 
accidental. 

If you reward the robot too much for 
one thing, you might suppress some be- 
havior important for survival, it could be 
the response to a rare event that 
comes later as a surprise. At first, our 
truck-driving machine was overcor- 
recting with its steering, like a human 
with a learning permit. We added re- 
wards for minimal activity and its driv- 
ing smoothed out. But if we had 
trained it too rigidly to be a good robot 
that didn't jerk the wheel, and then, for 
example, a concrete, block fell off the 
truck ahead, the robot wouldn't veer 
away. That would be against its reward! 
Humans and animals innately solve 
this problem of competing objectives, 
but it's a challenge for robots. 
Omni: Why aren't humans the optimal 
controllers for robots? 
Whittaker: When Ambler first walked, it 
was like a blind groping, an almost co- 
matose action. But soon it was sensing 
and creating a model of its external, 
world, putting together its plan. As it 
learned, adapted, became a capable 
walker, something very intriguing began 
to happen. If it confronted obstacles 
scattered in its way, we, the human cre- 
ators, could not anticipate its actions — 
which leg it would pick up first, how it 
would balance itself. Suddenly it 
wasn't clear what behaviors to impart 
or how to refine the robot's motions. 
These are things that Ambler had to 
know for itself. 

Because humans have two legs, 
they, might not think in the dimensions 
of six or eight. The machine can think 
faster; it has a complete model of its me- 
chanics and all the data about its inter- 
action with the terrain. If the ground 
breaks from underneath or a foot 
slides off a rock, it could be cataclys- 
mic for Ambler. You would never entrust 
its balance to a human operator. And 
why bother? Human interface belongs 
at a much higher level of command. 
Omni: But don't machines sometimes 
think too logically? 

Whittaker: Say we really challenge Am- 
bler. We set up meter-high obstacles 
and pile boxes all around the room. Af- 
ter an hour of exhaustive search of eve- 
ry conceivable footfall, the robot might 
decide it's impossible to get across the 
room. But maybe there's some wild com- 
bination of moves it just flat out 



missed. It's like human climbers trying 
to scale some rock face. Nobody can 
do it, and it's understood to be impos- 
sible. Then some fast gun from Yo- 
semite sticks his foot in a crevice be- 
side his left ear and smokes to the top. 
We give our machine that confidence 
to sometimes throw out the rigorous plan- 
ning and just try something. 
Omni; Do your robots seem alive? 
Whittaker; I once came up to Rex [an 
autonomous excavator] while it was dig- 
ging away. I put my foot where it was 
working; it detected me, slowed its dig- 
ging, and moved away. I came close 
again. It regarded me and moved away 
as if annoyed with the game I was play- 
ing. I am intrigued by the actions of 
these machines, how different robots be- 
have according to their capabilities. 

A robot has a measure of confi- 
dence, say in the quality of its vision 
model, and if its confidence is low or if 
the robot is facing a difficult challenge, 
it gives the human observer the impres- 
sion of caution or uncertainty. I credit 
robots with the ability to move through 
the .world; I see them reason and 
learn, watch them react and interact. 
But I know it's not black magic or ma- 
chine emotion, but sensors and com- 
puters at work. At times a robot takes 
on the behavior of something alive, but 
it isn't. 

Omni: What is lacking in robot sensing 
that you want? 

Whittaker: Most researchers look to the 
higher processes of perception. And I, 
too, want vision sensors like human 
eyes in tiny packages, efficient and rug- 
ged. But I dream of machines with su- 
perlative physical control. A walking ro- 
bot senses contact and force as it 
steps. That's essential, but trivial com- 
pared to what animals and humans can 
do. Athletes lean in certain ways and 
cats routinely approach the limit of 
their balance. They have fine sensing 
in their ankles, feet, toes, and inner ear. 
They feel texture. All of this is fully inte- 
grated. When we can give machines 
these rich senses like touch and bal- 
ance, then we will step into the future. 
My ideal robot is one that's smart and 
agile — with the simple interfaces of a 
washing machine. 

Omrii: You worked on Ambler for five 
years, and now it's to be retired. Will you 
miss it? 

Whittaker; I try not to get emotional 
about a robot, the physical manifesta- 
tion of our science. Imagine if Wernher 
von Braun had become attached to 
each new rocket. Somebody pushed a 
button; it was gone. The rocket was on- 
ly the symbol of knowledge going into 
the next launch. 

Robotics is like thai. I think about the 



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evoluLion cf robots n bio oyical terms. 
We should create dozens of robot lit- 
ters, carrying the fittest ideas forward. 
As new entities appear, they may be 
quite different from their predecessors 
in linkages, bones, and appendages. 
But there is a gene pool that moves 
ahead — such as 50,000 lines of percep- 
tion software or planning code that lets 
the machine see, reason, or walk. It 
works for a machine of any size, much 
like the Gulliver effect in biology where 
tiny rodents and giant elephants can 
share the same gait or vision. The ro- 
bot's form can take many shapes, but 
the core technologies transfer to a new 
generation. 

Omni: You were in Ihe office until late 
last night, and you're back this Sunday 
morning. Do you ever take time off? 
Whittaker: Not long ago it came to me 
that I hadn't been out adventuring for 
a decade. So I started taking time off 
from my research. I fell in love, got mar- 
ried, and bought a farm, I plan to grow 
alfalfa, oats, maybe corn, and later 
raise dairy cattle. Thinking about farm- 
ers inching along in tractors with culti- 
vators or hooking milking devices to 
cow udders at dawn, I realized that ro- 
bots can do these jobs. I plan to auto- 
mate much of the work at my place, start- 
ing with a cognitive haymaker. Robot- 
ics could change the face of agricul- 
ture. In my lifetime, even if it's when I'm 
leaning back in a rocking chair, I'll see 
these things out in the world, plowing 
fields, entertaining kids at theme 
parks, restoring nuclear sites, exploring 
ihe planets. Not just a few, but whole 
families of robots— millions of individu- 
als — whose lineage can be traced to 
our shop. DQ 



CREDITS 

Page 2, top: Robert Clark; page 2, bot- 
tom left: Kent Williams; page 2, bottom 
right: Peier Liepke; page 6: Penni Glad- 
stone; page 14: Ted Levin; page 18: Ray 
Piortner/Peter Arnold, Inc.; page 22, bot- 
tom: Veronika Teuber: page 22, top: 
Sam S argent/Gam ma Liaison; page 24: 
Art & Editorial Resources; page 26: Gior- 
gio Palmisano; page 29: Mark Wagon- 
er; page 31: Tony Wang; page 32: 
David M. Phillips/Photo Researchers; 
page 33, top: Hans Reinhard/Photo 
Researchers; page 33, bottom: Steve 
Niedorf/Photo Researchers; page 34, 
top: Sebastiao Barbosa/The Image 
Bank; page 34, bottom: Richard R. 
Hansen/Photo Researchers; page 36: 
Paul A. Zahl/Photo Researchers: page 
42: Stan Stankiewicz; page 79: Steve 
Eichner/Retna; page 80: Telegraph 
Colour Library/FPG; page 81 , top: F. Regi- 
nato/The Image Bank; page 104, mid- 
dle: Olga Spiegel, 




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EAnnes 



DESKTOP MAGIC: 

Tricks that perform themselves 

By Scot Morris 



In 1865, London theater 
audiences gasped when 
they saw a trick called the 
Sphinx performed for the 
first time. At center stage 
was 'a round wood table, 
devoid of drapery, and on 
top of it sat a. lifelike human 
head that answered ques- 
tions from the audience. 

A couple of years ago, a 
Japanese toy company 
named Tenyo adapted the 
principle of the Sphinx table 
into the Art Bank. About two 
and a half inches square, 
the bank has a transparent 
front through which you 
can see an object floating 
in the center, the object 
varies from bank to bank; in 
the example ; above, it's 
an airplane. How does the 
airplane float there? It's 
certainly not suspended on 
strings, because it doesn't 
swing about as you move 
the cube. If you shine a 
flashlight in from any angle, 




The bank grows more 
intriguing when you drop a 
coin info the slot, at the top. 
Although you hear it fall, you 
don't see it. Rather than 
bouncing off the airplane 
and falling to the bottom, it 
disappears completely. 

How does it work? You 
can solve this puzzle in your 
head, even if the bank's 
not in your hands. If you buy 
one — it sells for about $7 — 
the instructions tell you how 
to get your money out 
but not how the trick works. 

Tenyo makes many self- 
contained tricks available 
only through magic stores. 
They currently market more 
than 50 and introduce 
four or five new items every 
year. Most cost between 
$10 and $15 and reveal in 
the instructions how the trick 
works. The Art Bank was 
Tenyo's first trick that didn't 
include the secret, and 
it broke into new markets: 
toy stores, gift stores, 
novelty shops. Invented by 
ShigeruSugawara. it's. 
become Tenyo's most suc- 
cessful new:product, 
selling more than 3 million 
units worldwide. 

Tenyo: was founded in 



1931 by Tenyo Shoukyoku- 
sai, a well-known magician 
of that era. The company 
makes primarily toys and 
games, bji r. aiso mainta ns 
a fuli staff of magic in- 
ventors— the only company 
in the world to do so. 

Tenyo recently intro- 
duced a bank for which the 
company hasn't yet given 
ah English name.. You see a- 
silver ring and a satellite 
f tc-iliiig in space. A coin 
dropped into. the slot 
disappears, as. expected, 
but it also makes the 
spacecraft fly two or three 
times around the ring. 
The instructions tell yo'u.-o'nly 
how to remove the coins 
and change the battery. 

The newest Tenyo inven- 
tor, Tooru Suzuki, created 
the Micro Bank (bottom left), 
which sells for about S15. 
Coins appear to shrink in 
size as they fall through a 
funnel that leads to the tiny 



chamber where the money 
stacks up. Through a 
wndow, you can see up to 
16 minuscule quarters in a 
stack or more than 150 
diminutive dimes. 

Tenyo's newest twist on 
the trick bank is the Dracula 
Bank, invented by New York 
magician Mark Setteducati; 
it should be available in the 
United States soon. Pull 
Dracula- all the way up arid : 
his hands fall forward 
to make a tray for your coin. 
Push him down in front 
of the mirror and he disap- 
pears — with your coin — 
becsuso a vampire casts no 



reflection. Pull htm up again, 
and the tray is empty. 

These items represent a 
new kind of magic trick — 
they perform themselves, 
and. the- person who buys 
one may be just as mystified 
about its workings as 
anyone Watching its opera- 
tion. I've also seen another 
new trick of this type, he 
[b:*i;ni] 500 pen (below) 
from the Sailor pen compa- 
ny in Japan. It operates 
like any normal pen: When 
you push the plunger at 
the top, the pen tip comes 
out the other end. Push 
again; and the tip retracts. 

But there's a gap in the 
centdr of the pen between 
the plunger and the oei 
tip. The gap,, surrounded by 
a frame of four wires, moves 
with the ink tube whenever 
you push the plunger. The 
gap is real — you can stick a 
pencil tip through it. It 
isn't caused by magnetic 



repulsion, or you would be 
abie to keep the pen tip 
retracted while you push the 
plunger. And the wires 
themselves don't move, 
which you can confirm by 
holding them tightly as 
you work the plunger. 

What's your hypothesis? 
I'd like to see readers' 
theories of how these tricks 
work, or any other examples 
of desktop magic. If you'd 
like to take a look at 
the Tenyo banks. yourself, 
Goldcrest, Inc., (800-922- 
3233) can tell you the 
name of the nearest store 
selling them. DO